LGBTQI domestic abuse ‘unseen’

By AAP Newswire

After 10 years in an abusive relationship, a NSW social worker found his true calling when he embraced his transgender identity.

Jayke met his girlfriend through church and the couple spent many years as spiritual leaders while raising two children.

"Religion is one of the things that makes it especially hard for people who are gay or transitioning or anything like that to leave a relationship," he told AAP this week.

"She would use God a lot and say we were called together because we were going to be the example that showed the church that gay people weren't bad."

Although he never felt particularly feminine, it was during the last two years of the relationship that Jayke began his physical transition and started identifying as a male - which brought new challenges.

"The kind of abuse I experienced was physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial," Jayke said.

"I had parts of my body that were absolute no touch zones throughout the entire relationship and she would just completely disrespect it and would say 'this is what you really want, you just don't know it and I'm showing you what you really want'."

Jayke says he tried to leave the relationship about seven times and after he did, began receiving threats of "being outed".

This was terrifying as he had been disowned by his parents when they discovered he was gay, at about 19.

They had later mended their relationship and Jayke was able to move back in with his parents after leaving his girlfriend.

"I had socially transitioned while in the relationship but it wasn't until the end that I started to physically transition," he said.

"I didn't tell my parents because my mum was in the middle of cancer treatment and she (Jayke's ex-partner) knew that's what I had chosen to do, but she would constantly threaten me.

"She thought that was a real power play and it was, but it didn't work thankfully."

He says that once he began speaking about his experience while accepting and visualising himself as a transgender male, he felt more confident stepping into his new reality.

But it was the psychological abuse that lingered 10 years on.

"Just talking to her in an email is enough to trigger PTSD and when that happens I have nightmares, even when I'm not asleep ... they are like flashbacks," he said.

Jayke believes there is a lot of knowledge about domestic violence in the community but not enough awareness about the different warning signs and abusive behaviours, particularly in queer relationships.

"Threatening to 'out' someone is an abusive behaviour and it's legally recognised which means something could be done about it," he said.

He hopes "coercive control" - which relates to behavioural and psychological abuse - will one day be recognised in the NSW court system.

"Coercive control needs to be part of the law. At the moment there is nothing you can do about it."

There is currently no national data collection on LGBTQ people in Australia nor figures on those affected by sexual, domestic and family violence.

Associate director Kai Noonan from NSW queer health organisation ACON says "not being counted leads to not being seen".

"Violence in LGBTQ communities can be understood within the broader social context of marginalisation and discrimination faced by LGBTQ people," Kai told AAP on Wednesday.

"It is only through addressing broader views that LGBTQ people and their relationships are less valid and worthy that we can start to address the drivers of violence within our relationships."

Kai says LGBTQ communities face barriers when reporting domestic violence to police and accessing services including a fear of discrimination and a need to educate professionals about their identity and relationships.

Many in the community also have a higher threshold when it comes to tolerating abuse due to a "life-time of discrimination" as part of a minority group, Kai added.

Domestic Violence NSW spokesperson Renata Field says domestic and family violence occurs at "similar if not higher rates in the LGBTQ community compared to women".

"Unfortunately there are no funded specialist DV services in NSW so LGBTQ people are at greater risk of harm from DV than ever," Ms Field said in a statement on Tuesday.

Both organisations believe greater inclusion of the LGBTQ community in discussions and campaigns on domestic violence will lead to better services and support.