5.1 Providing context: academic research on same sex domestic violence

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Where there is much literature and research on domestic violence in heterosexual relationships there are only few pieces of research investigating domestic violence in same sex relationships.

The reasons for the lack of awareness of this area are numerous and are dealt with in more detail elsewhere on this CD. A recent study comparing domestic abuse in same-sex and heterosexual relationships by Donovan, Hester, Holmes and McCarry published in November 2006 suggests that this invisibility or lack of awareness could be because to the LGBT community feel vulnerable to attack from a society it considers to be ‘homophobic’. For further details, see:

www.bristol.ac.uk/sps/downloads/FPCW/cohsarfinalreport.pdf

The study above, as well as a report published by Henderson (2003) both found that approximately one in four people in same sex relationships experienced domestic abuse or violence. The report on “Prevalence of Domestic Violence amongst Lesbians and Gay Men” published in 2003 by Henderson can be viewed in full at the following site:

www.sigmaresearch.org.uk/downloads/domesticviolence.pdf

The AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON) has carried out one of the few in-depth studies on same sex domestic violence in relation to their supported accommodation assistance programme and has found that same sex domestic violence increases the risk of homelessness in lesbians:

www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/vIA/saap/$File/Homelessness_DV_October.pdf

The Women and Equality Unit in the department for Trade and Industry (DTI) estimated that 6% of the UK population are gay. This would mean just under a million people in the UK could be experiencing domestic violence or abuse that is largely going unnoticed.

Even though the criminal justice system does have legal provisions to deal with violent perpetrators in same sex relationships there is not the same resource to help both victims and offenders for this type of violence. For example, there are only 18 beds in shelters for gay men and none for gay women. Also there are no offender programmes specifically designed for the LGBT community. Without more robust research there is no way of knowing if existing domestic violence programmes are suitable for this community.

Notwithstanding the many barriers to reporting incidents of same sex domestic violence to the police in the first place, the absence of detailed academic research or wider knowledge about women perpetrators of domestic violence in same sex relationships means that police crime data could be a useful source of information about these incidents. At the very least it provides a starting point for building an understanding of the nature, context and characteristics of some of these incidents.

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