There are currently no LGBT-specific refuge services in England
LGBT victims of domestic abuse are staying with perpetrators because they can’t find a refuge space, a leading charity supporting survivors has found.
A lack of space and understanding of the obstacles facing LGBT domestic abuse victims has been compounded by the lockdown period, the LGBT Foundation has said, which has seen double the amount of phone calls to the charity’s crisis helpline since 23 March.
There are currently no LGBT-specific refuge services in England, and less than 1 per cent of refuges (two, both located in London) provide specialist support to LGBT survivors, according to charity Galop, with domestic violence victims more likely to be referred to their local authority to get on a housing list than find a refuge space.
Scared for his life
Cuts to sevices over the last decade have resulted in a lack of specialist shelters for victims like Liam, who has been forced to return to his abusive partner because he cannot find a refuge space suitable for a man. Liam self-referred himself to the Foundation for support after his partner attacked him. He said he is “scared for his life” and is has little funds to move on as he is out of work.
Liam was facing homelessness while waiting for the local authority to rehouse him, and the LGBT Foundation said it is presenting his case to the local authority to ensure he is given priority as a vulnerable at risk victim.
“Liam was very concerned that he would be made street homeless due to the lack of refuge space which will take males and his difficulty getting social housing during this period,” Rhys Dower, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator, told i.
“He has now returned to the perpetrator and has disengaged with our services, highlighting just one of many experiences where LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse fall through the cracks due to a lack of LGBT inclusive support services.
“What needs to happen now is we need to be moving our focus away from contingency plans and towards practical and proactive support for housing victims of domestic abuse. We also need LGBT and male victims to be included in all discussions and decisions made around strategies for victims of domestic abuse.
“We recently had the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament this Tuesday – we need to ensure that LGBT victims voices and unique experiences and barriers are being discussed and advocated for,” he added.
‘There is a very real danger LGBTQ victims may slip through the net’
The LGBT Foundation is currently “firefighting” to help the increased numbers of victims who are isolated from their friends and calling its service during the coronavirus crisis, a spokesperson said. This can be an especially difficult aspect of the lockdon for LGBTQ people, who are less likely to have a family network for support.
The overall rise in domestic abuse cases reported during the lockdown has prompted the Government to hear a second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will redefine the legal definition of abuse.
The Home Office also announced £3.1m will go to specialist services for children who have both been directly and indirectly affected by domestic abuse, and pledged a further £2m to bolster domestic abuse charities online support services.
But the LGBT Foundation has called on the Government to implement crisis plans for gay, bi and trans victims of domestic abuse who are in immediate danger and have limited resources.
Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation said: “There is a very real danger that LGBTQ victims may slip through the net and be left without support, trapped in a situation that is very dangerous to them.
“It is vital every single LGBT person knows that you are not alone, that LGBT Foundation is here to support you and we are still here if you need us. I strongly encourage anybody who is in a domestic situation that is worried for the safety of themselves or somebody else to reach out to us.”
i has approached the Home Office for comment.If you want to chat and need support, call LGBT Foundation’s helpline on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am until 6pm Monday to Friday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org