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'Young people deserve a better response' - the importance of age appropriate support for young people experiencing domestic abuse

Lucy McDonald is SafeLives’ Training Development Officer for Scotland. In this blog she talks about the importance of a specialist, age appropriate response for young people experiencing domestic abuse and the benefits of our 'Responding to young people' training. 

In the early 2000s as a keen new graduate, I was working occasional shifts in a hostel for young homeless people. This is where I first encountered domestic abuse, although I didn’t immediately realise it at the time. 

Many of the young residents were in relationships and I recall the ongoing exasperation and disdain from staff about the regular ‘dramas’ around these relationships – the constant ‘on-off’ status and regular ‘arguments’. During one of these so-called arguments I remember one of the young women sustained injuries to her face and head. While the staff  responded with care and empathy around the physical harm,  there was no real understanding of the dynamics of the situation and her vulnerability, never mind the escalating risk that was boiling up under that roof. I don’t recall anyone naming the behaviour of the young man as ‘domestic abuse’, and I very much doubt he was challenged about his role in the relationship, his sense of entitlement or taking responsibility for his actions.  

Pressure was put on the young victim to take control, end the relationship and ‘sort herself out’. There was no risk assessment, no safety plan, no effective support put in place. There was frustration about her lack of engagement with staff. Shortly after the violent incident she disclosed she was pregnant and I remember much speculation in the staff room about whether she was being truthful or not. There was no belief or validation, nor any consideration of what the pregnancy might mean for her

Young people deserve a better response than this. Thankfully there is now much greater awareness about domestic abuse, coercive control and risk. The dialogue is shifting from ‘it’s her own fault’ to ‘he needs to be challenged’. At SafeLives, we cover these topics in detail in our  Responding Safely to Young People Experiencing Domestic Abuse training session. We want to make sure that anyone experiencing domestic abuse gets the right response for them – whoever they are. 

We begin by looking at brain development of adolescents to consider why their risk taking behaviour may differ from that of adults. Then we consider the nuances of how ‘domestic abuse’ and coercive control may develop in relationships between young people, including how, among other things, the language may be quite different. Then we go on to consider safe and effective communication and practical interventions with both the young victim and the person causing harm. We spend time looking at SafeLives’ Young Person’s Dash Risk Checklist and how to involve young people effectively in its application.  Finally we explore support and safety planning, with emphasis on building resilience and support networks for young people.

If you work with young people in any capacity, this practical session will consolidate your understanding of the specific dynamics of domestic abuse for these young people and equip you with practical tools to address the risks and support needs. It will support you to engage effectively and consider how you might create lasting change for that young person. And, as with all our training sessions, you will get a chance to interact and share ideas with a range of practitioners from across Scotland.

We’ve delivered this training in Aberdeen, Shetland and Scottish Borders.  We are now taking the session to Glasgow and Stirling.

Glasgow
Monday 25th June
Apply now

Stirling
Tuesday 4th September
Apply now

Cost: £95 for statutory organisations and £75 for voluntary sector

Find out more

Children are not 'hidden' victims of domestic abuse - we simply need to see them

Sonal is the Head of Consultancy at SafeLives. Here she talks about the One Front Door model and why it is so important that we look at the whole picture for the whole family so we can start making vital links between the needs of individuals and the families they belong to. 

Each year, nearly two million people experience domestic abuse. It’s time we recognise the full scale of this epidemic and the impact it has on the whole family – including children.

Recent SafeLives’ research estimates that at the time they start primary school at least one child in every classroom will have lived with domestic abuse since they were born. They have lived with abuse for their whole lives, and know nothing else. Yet nearly 40% of children living in households with domestic abuse are not known to children’s services.

We owe it to children to provide the right support, at the right time, to keep them safe and help them rebuild and recover. If we don’t, the consequences are devastating. Over half of children exposed to domestic abuse had difficulty sleeping, and almost a third felt like the abuse was their fault. The same children exhibit higher rates of behavioural problems and engage in more risky behaviour, making them vulnerable to other abuse or harm as they grow up.

Family members and their vulnerabilities interconnect. People do not operate in silos and neither should we. If information is not shared, we deal with one person and one concern at a time – through different professionals with different agendas. We are missing opportunities to help and lives are being put unnecessarily at risk.

But if we work together, and build a picture of each family, that reflects how people actually live their lives, we can help people earlier, and more effectively.

One Front Door

SafeLives introduced the One Front Door model to overcome this problem. One Front Door is our vision for a transformation of local systems, processes and responses so they start making vital links between the needs of individuals and the families they belong to.

One Front Door will facilitate earlier intervention and swifter, pre-emptive action by a multi-agency specialist team who will identify the needs and risks to all family members at the same time.

The first stage of One Front Door focuses on bringing together two key elements: child safeguarding and domestic abuse. SafeLives are working with seven local authorities across England to pilot this model, helping to make it sustainable and effective. The seven sites we will be working with are:

  • Suffolk
  • Bexley
  • St Helens
  • North Tyneside
  • Norfolk
  • North Somerset
  • West Sussex

Our learning so far

We have found that the current system for safeguarding children, protecting victims of domestic abuse, and challenging perpetrators works well – but separately. Referrals for child safeguarding are largely considered with only the child at risk in mind, with each incident being looked at in isolation.

A shared understanding of risk and need is required across all agencies. Risk ratings are not used consistently at initial referral or at the end of assessment in a way that is understood by all agencies working with members of the same family.

The case management systems used by different agencies often do not integrate with each other. In some local authority areas, multiple systems are used which impedes effective information sharing. This can mean children’s social care workers are assessing the safety of children at risk without learning that police colleagues in the same area know that the child’s primary carer is at high risk of serious harm or murder.

Trialling a One Front Door approach has led to broader, integrated action planning for all family members. We have strengthened agencies’ understanding of domestic abuse and their ability to work with perpetrators of abuse. We are committed to improving the response to domestic abuse and child safeguarding and will use the learnings from of our partner sites to ensure more families get the right support at the right time to make them safe and well.

“Early intervention is the key. We know that the super-controlling 15-year-old boyfriend today could become a high risk perpetrator in years to come. SafeLives have helped us to understand the risks posed by perpetrators of abuse.”
Seb Smith, Head of Service, Suffolk MASH and One Front Door Partner

We’re pleased to see that the Government are also taking steps to improve the response to domestic abuse for the whole family, with the introduction of a new Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill. We must take this opportunity to ensure the impact on children is a key focus and is considered by courts when sentencing.

For too long children have been the ‘hidden’ victims of domestic abuse. But it’s time we realise that being ‘in the other room’ does not protect them from harm. We need a joined up, consistent approach to domestic abuse that sees every single individual and family member and responds to their needs. Only then can we truly put an end to this epidemic.

For more information about our One Front Door work, contact Sonal Shenai, Head of Consultancy at sonal.shenai@safelives.org.uk 

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Sophie*'s story

In this piece Sophie* talks to SafeLives Knowledge Hub Advisor Collette Eaton-Harris about the sexual violence she experienced from a partner as a teenager, and some of the wider issues that bisexual women face.

Warning: contains descriptions of sexual violence

The relationship started when we were 15 and ended when we were both about 21. We were at school, I think we had some classes together. It was kind of my first proper relationship. It was a pretty average kind of teenager relationship. But before we even slept together there were kind of a few things that didn’t seem right. He was trying to go at a pace much quicker than I wanted to, because neither of us had slept with anyone before, obviously we were both very young.  And he wanted to move to that stage a lot quicker than I wanted to move to that stage, which I think is a very common thing amongst teenagers. 

But even the first time we had any kind of sexual contact above kissing, was a little bit forceful. You know, like he kind of tried to hold me in place, because I would say, “Get off, I don’t want to do this, you’re hurting, like you’ve got to get off me now.”  And he kind of used his body weight to like keep me pressed up against a wall, as it were.  And he was like, “No, you’ve just got to relax.  And then it will be fun, like you’re going to want it in a minute.” So eventually I had to use some force to get him to get off me.  And so that for me was like the first red flag, and we had quite a big fight about that.

“Each time I managed to rationalise it to myself”

Then it was kind of okay after that for a while, but I guess that was the first time we had any contact like that, and it was in complete violation of my boundaries.  And so it just kind of set a precedent that I wouldn’t leave him if he did stuff like this to me.  So there wasn’t really any motivation for him to not try and push my boundaries constantly.  That was only about 15 that happened, it was only a couple of months after we started dating. 

And kind of as things went on, a lot of the time, everything we did was on his terms rather than mine.  And, you know, he quite often went beyond boundaries I had set. And then each time I managed to rationalise it to myself, my God, he’s just trying to, you know, I’m still learning, he’s still learning, blah, blah, blahHe doesn’t know what he’s doing, but eventually it just kind of kept escalating like that. You know, that thing about the frog being put in cold water? The water was already quite warm when I got put in it.  But it just kept getting hotter anyway.

The things he would say to me would be like, “Oh, well you know, my friends’ girlfriends let them do this.  And other girls want to do this, so why don’t you want to do it?  And I’ve seen it like on the internet” and blah, blah, blah.  So, you know, it felt normal at the time.  But then obviously looking back, it wasn’t the same as other peoples’ relationships.

I came out very young. I came out to my friends at 14. So he was already aware of my identity when we started dating at 15, which I think is a little uncommon. But I was just very aware of it. I think he knew that it was quite isolating for me because we grew up in a very rural place.  And it was like 2008, so there wasn’t the awareness of the identities that there is now, I think. And there wasn’t LGBT school groups or any places for me to access at that time.  And although some of my friends had already come out, it was very much like the LGBT spaces were aimed at gay people, rather than bi people.  So he knew that it was a struggle for me, that I kind of was like, well, I should just be a lesbian, why can’t I just do that?  That was something I was quite angry about in myself.  And so sometimes he would use that because he knew that I wanted to kind of prove to myself that I really was bisexual instead of gay or straight.  And so he would say like, “Well, maybe you don’t want to do it because you are just a lesbian. And like you’re just not accepting this, admitting it to yourself.” He never called me straight or said I was straight.  But he would say like, “Maybe you’re not bisexual.  Maybe you’re a lesbian and you just can’t like come out to yourself.” Which, you know, is a stereotype that a lot of us hear.

“There are real world consequences of barring people from what might be their only resource to validation of community”

So it’s obviously quite isolating to grow up in that situation of not knowing many other people around you.  And it was definitely something that had an effect on my self-esteem and mental health. Some people were very much like, “Okay, whatever.”  But it doesn’t quite feel the same, does it, they say “I support you.”  But then at the same time they make jokes, “Ha ha, that’s so gay.” Especially back then, this was like seven or eight years ago, that was very common.

I used websites like Tumblr to access other bisexual people and kind of find some validation that it was kind of okay to have this identity.  When I went to uni I tried to join the LGBT group there and it was a bad experience.  Again somebody tried to make it very clear to me that like this is a space for gay people who were either in same sex relationships, or want to be. Like coming there when you have a boyfriend you’re not necessarily welcomed.

We were at a social and you know how these things go, where people are like, “How do you identify?”  And so I’d be like, “I’m bisexual” and then the same person would come up and kind of enter into this conversation, “she’s got a boyfriend though” Just making it very clear to everyone like, “She says she’s bisexual, but she’s got a boyfriend.” So that made me very uncomfortable.  So I didn’t engage with the LGBT group very much for the first two years that I was in uni. In the third year we had a new president, it was very good after that.  But for the first two years it was kind of a drinking society for gay people. So, you know, that wasn’t something that I felt I could access or feel very supported in. I got the comment from lesbians quite often, like, you know, one girl who was a lesbian told me like, “Straight people don’t want you because they think you’re gay and we don’t want you because we think you’re straight.” I had comments like that, you know, occasionally.  There are real world consequences of barring people from what might be their only resource to validation of community.  And I think for women who have experienced sexual violence, it’s really important to have that community.  And then feeling…and I’m sure you’ve experienced it, where you want to go to an event but then you’re like, “Oh, no, is someone going to make a comment that I shouldn’t really be here because I’m like, you know, actually straight?”

Two studies I’ve looked at from America – there isn’t any that I can find here in the UK – have found that bi women are more likely than both straight or gay women to experience sexual violence.  And one of them is that 75% have experienced any kind of sexual violence, it’s incredibly high numbers.  And then I’ve been speaking to some girls about their experiences.  You know, there are similar themes running through all of them, like I was seen as being promiscuous.  And I was seen as being up for anything.  And this person thought they could take advantage of that.

“That was the first time I really admitted to myself like it’s not okay for this to have happened”

There was always kind of a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, because it’s very easy to go through the experiences where somebody is having sex with you, but you’re not having sex with them.  And often I’d end up in tears and like, well, disassociating and trying to get away from the environment.  But it’s very easy kind of afterwards to go like, well, maybe I did want him, maybe I didn’t say no enough.  So although I had a kind of nagging feeling in me that like this isn’t right, it was far too easy to rationalise that away.

There was kind of a turning point when…usually he would try and use coercion at first, kind of like, Come on do this, or if you won’t do that, do this” and “why won’t you do it?”  And that kind of stuff until eventually I’d be like, “Okay.”  But the one occasion that was quite eye opening for me was when he’d been drinking and he went in straightaway, got on top of me and pinned me down.  Even though I’d said like no several times, and nothing actually ended up happening that night, whereas on other occasions it had escalated.  But then I spoke to some friends about it and I was like, “Hey, this happened last night, it was a bit gross.”  And my friends are all very jokey people, but they went very serious and were like, “That’s not okay that that happened.  And he should not be doing that to you at all, and that’s completely wrong.”  And so that was kind of a bit of a wake-up call that I’d had.  It was the first time I’d ever mentioned that things were maybe not what they seemed.  And to have that validation actually it wasn’t right, it was probably what caused me to end it. We ended up staying together for a couple of months after that.  And then eventually I got out of the relationship with some help from my current girlfriend.  But that was the first time I really admitted to myself like it’s not okay for this to have happened.

I think you need to be aware of your own shame around your sexuality and address that. And find things that make you feel good and positive about being a bi woman.  Because I think, you know, there is a lot of shame and stigma around it.  And I think it’s easy to let that make you think, well, I feel bad about this, so it’s okay for other people to make me feel bad about it and use it against me.  So I think kind of addressing that and finding as much positivity as you can, is a good thing.

“trusting that voice in you, because it was there for me the whole time, saying, this isn’t okay

And just understanding that it’s meant to be fun, it’s not meant to be like a chore.  And you’re not meant to be doing things that you don’t want to do.  My ex-partner would say to me, “Well, you don’t have sex with me enough.  You don’t do this enough.  And like you’re not fulfilling my needs.”  And it made it feel like a chore, like, you know, okay, I’ve got to  do the dishwasher and then I’ve got to have sex with this person who I don’t want to have sex with.”  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s kind of how it came in my mindset.  But I think understanding that like just because somebody sees you as someone quite sexual, you don’t have to be.

And then obviously talking to people that you trust as soon as you feel like something’s wrong.  Especially if you have other bi women to talk to it about, I think that’s really important.  That they can give you that validation of, hey, you’re right, that’s not okay.  And let’s see what we can do to help you. I was lucky as a teenager because there were a few other bi women around me. 

And trusting that voice in you, because it was there for me the whole time, saying, like, this isn’t okay.  But I just, it was so easy, because I was so upset with myself and like (a) I was a teenage girl, like all teenage girls hate themselves as a little bit, I think.  And (b) having that extra dollop of figuring out your sexuality and your shame around it.  It was so easy to just use those voices to silence that little nagging feeling.

I think what needs to be addressed and looked into is what does a healthy relationship look like to somebody who’s bisexual and dating someone of like another sexual identity?  And how can they be better allies?  And how can we understand what we deserve from them?  I think that’s something that’s not really spoken about, but I think needs to be.

*name changed          

If you're experiencing abuse from a partner, or are worried about your relationship, help is available.           

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Understanding sexuality and gender discrimination: interview with Poppy Freeman

In this interview, SafeLives Knowledge Hub Advisor Collette Eaton-Harris speaks to Poppy Freeman, an intake and assessment worker at a domestic abuse charity. Poppy also holds an MA in gender, sexuality and culture from Manchester University.

Collette: Welcome Poppy. So we're here today to talk about sexuality and gender discrimination. Can you start by explaining why you think it's important to think about gender and sexuality separately?

Poppy: Yes, so we're going to talk about LGBT, and within that you've got lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The LGB refers to sexuality and then transgender is referring to gender – and that is something completely separate. So 'transgender' is a term referring to someone whose gender identity doesn't match the biological sex they were assigned at birth, and within transgender communities there are people who identify as 'gender fluid', which means their gender identity doesn't fit into the binary model of male or female.

We tend to talk about sexuality as something that refers to the gender you're attracted to, whether that's physically or emotionally. Gender is a completely separate term, and it's often argued that gender is something which is socially constructed. It's usually seen as two opposing categories (male and female), and that’s seen as relating to a person's biological sex. So if you're born with certain sex organs you'll be referred to as male, and if you're born with certain other sex organs you'll be referred to as female.

C: And so historically service providers have tended to put services together for both gender and sexuality, are you able to say a bit about why that is?

P: I think that as minority groups they tend to be grouped together, in order to recognise that everyone within these communities are facing discrimination. But it is something that I think it's important to move away from slightly – we need to think about how we help people in transgender communities, and the way we help them will be different to the ways we help people from LGB communities.

C: So it's useful for individuals in those groups to gain support from each other, but it's not useful as service providers to generically treat everyone under that umbrella the same. Could you talk a bit more about the notion of gender being socially constructed?

P: So within equality movements, especially feminism, debates about gender started coming from I'd say about the 1970s. There started being ideas about gender being something that society creates. There’s a famous sociologist called Ann Oakley, who wrote about and researched around gender construction. She found that the minute a baby is born we're already gendering them, we're teaching them how we think they should act according to what gender we've assigned them. For example dressing baby girls in pink and dressing baby boys in blue.

People will handle babies differently; they might pick them up and be a bit more rough if it's a boy or if the baby is dressed in blue. Also how we speak to children: how we talk to girl children could be calling them a princess, with boy children we tend to do things like calling them strong, or telling them not to cry.

We're constantly being given these messages about our role in terms of gender, and we learn that there are consequences if we don't comply with that, if we're acting outside of the gender we're assigned at birth. For example little boys who want to wear dresses being told that they can't, maybe at home or at school, things like that.

C: So how does it help in terms of our practice then to understand this, and just how strong those gender messages are?

P: I think not just for practitioners but also in wider society, it's showing us that gender isn't something that’s innate that we're born with – it's ever changing, it's evolving, and it's something that we are socialised into. So this is where we start to talk about transgender and how this can open our eyes to try and understand people in transgender communities. Because if we're saying that, ok I've been assigned female at birth and I identify with that, but then you might find someone else who is assigned female at birth, and they are socialised into that role, but they don't feel like that is their gender – then that's just a really interesting way of looking at things and opening our minds to thinking ok, gender isn't something fixed, it's not something rigid, it's something that humans create themselves, not biological.

C: So another term that people may have heard is the term 'cisgender'. Can you explain a bit more about what cisgender is?

P: So cisgender is used to describe people who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, so I was assigned female at birth and I identify as female, so therefore I am a cisgender female. And it's used in opposition to the word trans. I think another phrase you might hear is 'cis-normative', and that’s often used as a way to talk about discrimination against people in transgender communities. What it basically means is you're assuming that everyone is cisgender, and that that's the right way to be, and anyone outside of that is abnormal, or is going against social norms.

C: So that could be a very explicit and mindful discrimination, but I guess it could also be inadvertent discrimination out of ignorance? So creating forms that push people to choose either male or female as their gender.

P: Yes I think largely it will be unconscious because we are so used to just thinking of everyone as being cisgender, so yes it could be tick boxes on forms. When we're talking about domestic abuse, it's the assumption that most of our clients will be cisgender female, and the fact that the majority of domestic abuse practitioners are cisgender female as well.

C: Another term that's similar to cis-normative is heteronormative, could you say a bit about that?

P: Yes so heteronormative means assuming everyone is heterosexual, that it's the normal way of being, and that if you're not heterosexual that it's not normal or not right. So when I ask someone what their sexuality is and they say 'normal', I always challenge that and say ok, what is normal, what does normal mean to you? And it's getting people to reflect on that and think actually, maybe it's not 'normal' maybe it's just my way of being.

C: And the important point here is that really big, important documents, rules and legislation have been written in a way that there's been no consideration of anything other than this heterosexual norm.

So having talked about cis-normativity and heteronormativity, with that background and the discrimination and oppression that LGB or T people are experiencing in general, how does that then feed into the experience of domestic abuse?

P: I think because people in LGBT communities are already at increased risk of physical violence, of impacts on their physical and mental wellbeing, and the potential to create greater vulnerability, then if you identify as LGB or T then that's going to be further added to by being in an abusive relationship or having been a victim of domestic abuse.

Something that I won't go into too much detail about now but that people can go and look at is the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, and that's a research project done by TGEU and it records reported murders of trans people internationally. The statistics are tiny in comparison to the real number because it's only reported deaths, but it's really interesting to give people an idea of just how many trans people are murdered. I think just having that in mind – the greater vulnerability and the risk of violence to anyone within the LGBT community and in particular trans people.

And there's also another element to that which would be if you identify as LGBT, but you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't identify as LGBT, then that person will have more power than you in society; they're more likely to be taken seriously by people you normally come into contact with when we're talking about domestic abuse. And they can use that power to exploit their victim. So that's another way that they can be abusive.

Also something that can be really common is a cisgender person being in a relationship with a transgender person, and purposely using the wrong pronouns – so saying 'he' for a transgender woman and calling them by a name that they don't go by. That's obviously hugely emotionally abusive and is going to have a huge impact on that person.

So a person's LGBT status can massively affect a victim's ability to seek support for domestic abuse, and leaving the relationship. It may be that they fear discrimination from support agencies. I think there's also a lot of myths about domestic abuse only occurring in cisgender heterosexual relationships, which obviously as we know from the statistics just isn't true.

So I think all of those issues are really important, and that's why the experience of domestic abuse, if you identify as LGB or T is very different from if you don't identify in that way.

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Supporting LGBT+ survivors of sexual violence

Bev Higgins and Mark Sisterson are LGBT+ Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (Isvas) at The Rape and Sexual Violence Project in Birmingham; the only specialist LGBT+ Isvas in the UK.  In this blog, Bev and Mark describe some of the issues that LGBT+ people may face when reporting sexual violence, and share some good practice advice.

Rape, sexual assault & sexual abuse are experienced by a significant percentage of the population and are prevalent in the LGBT+ community too.  Several studies have suggested that LGB&T young people and adults are at higher risk of physical, emotional and sexual violence compared to heterosexual, cisgendered people, and Stonewall figures show that 26% of LGBT+ people have received unwanted sexual contact.

Acknowledging that you are being sexually abused or have been raped is hard enough, but even harder when trying to talk to someone to get help.  You may be afraid of accessing support if you have previously experienced discrimination for being LGBT+. Having to explain and justify yourself in terms of your sexuality or gender is an added pressure on top of the traumatic ordeal of disclosing a sexual assault. Homophobia and transphobia are still rife even in 2018, so accepting your own sexuality or gender identity can be a difficult thing to work through. Wider society is heteronormative and gender binary; any deviation from what is considered normal can become a target of hate. This can be due to fear, misunderstanding or intolerance.  Stonewall figures show that the number of LGBT+ people who have experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year has risen by 78% from 2013 to 2017 and four in five LGBT people (81%) who experienced a hate crime or incident didn't report it to the police. 

It can be frightening to think that you will not be accepted by the important people in your life. Even within the LGBT+ community there can be some difficulties being open and accepted. Often perpetrators of sexual violence use this fear of being outed to exploit and keep abusing their victims. Sometimes people are so afraid of others finding out about their LGBT+ identity they struggle to access or engage with LGBT+ venues/services. This can lead to increased isolation and vulnerability to sexual perpetrators.

There is little sex and relationships information for the LGBT+ community.  It should be an integral part of education within schools. Children may not be aware of why they feel different and trying to conform to a heterosexist, gender binary society may be difficult. LGBT+ young people are exploring and self-educating via the internet or through older LGBT+ people and may be more vulnerable to sexual abuse as a result.  Understanding the LGBT+ culture itself can be difficult even when you are part of it. Different terminology is used which can lead to confusion and issues around consent.  A lack of understanding may lead to people getting into sexual situations they didn’t intend.

Child sexual exploitation, gang affiliation and sex work all affect the LGBT+ community too. Young gay people can be trafficked and abused, gangs can target and rape LGBT+ people, sex work may be used to fund transitioning hormones & operations.

Trans* individuals experience a significantly high level of sexual violence hate crime. There can be a lot of internal homo/trans phobia projected onto partners. Society is often very intolerant of trans* people, and so they feel they are perceived as disgusting and worthless and are at risk of potentially more degrading, violent acts as the perpetrators justify their behaviour to themselves. This has huge implications for mental health; 48 % of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, 59% had at least considered doing so. (Risk and Resilience Explored (RaRE) Report, 2015)

Trans* people can have body dysmorphia and body loathing of the wrong genitals which is exacerbated when targeted in sexual abuse.  This is humiliating to the individual; a part of the body they hate is violated and responsible for even more trauma.

Sexual abuse of any nature is a hidden problem and a difficult issue to talk about.  The LGBT+ community often are overlooked, misunderstood and can face prejudice. Fear of discrimination can lead to an avoidance of speaking to professionals when seeking support.   It is essential that all professionals are respectful and provide a safe, non-judgemental space to people of all sexualities & gender identities.  And crucial that they are sensitive to someone’s identity, seeing the person not the label. 

Recognise that LGBT+ individuals are born as the people they are, it is not a choice and they need support to enable them to be true to who they are.  Challenge any inappropriate attitudes or misunderstandings that arise from other professionals.  With trans* clients use the name and pronouns they present with.  If for official paperwork birth gender & name need to be recorded please explain this. And if you don’t understand any issue with a client -  don’t be afraid to politely ask them.  

The Rape & Sexual Violence Project

Supporting people so they can live in a world free from sexual violence and abuse and supporting and inspiring people to live confident hopeful futures after abuse.

 Charity Numbers 508669 & 1134387

Winners of Exceptional ISVA Team 2016

www.rsvporg.co.uk

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