Supporting Trans Survivors of Domestic Abuse
For many years domestic abuse has been hidden away. Even the very term domestic implies something that occurs once the front door has been closed. Whilst understanding, and awareness of domestic abuse has improved, for many trans people support still seems a distant prospect.
With this in mind we welcome the conference being jointly hosted by the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association (LAGLA) and Northumbria Police LGBT on April 27th, to begin to explore the issues faced by LGBT victims of domestic abuse. By taking part we hope to highlight some of the specific issues faced by trans victims and survivors. It may seem “common sense” to say that all survivors face the same problems, and need the same support, however this is an oversimplification which leaves many vulnerable and isolated from the support which is meant to exist for them.
Trans victims of domestic abuse face specific problems and need specialist support. Whilst there is not space to go deeply into these issues here, we can give an overview of some of the points we will be raising at the conference.
Assumptions about what abuse looks like
Often we have a very narrow view of what domestic abuse looks like. Narratives are built around it always involving physical violence, and always being perpetrated on cisgender women by cisgender men. Research consistently shows that people of all genders can be victims of domestic abuse. The recent, welcome, coercive control law makes clear that forms of abuse which do not involve physical violence are not to be tolerated. However many people, including victims, still believe that domestic abuse only takes one form. Support services too, including the emergency services, can miss trans victims of domestic abuse, because they do not “look” like the traditional picture in their heads. Better training is vital, but there also has to be support, empowerment, and development within the trans community itself, so people come to recognise that how they are being treated is not OK. Such change will take years, and need ongoing investment, but this month’s event is an important first step.
Cissexism and siding with the abuser
Usually when we are talking about a victim of any form of abuse it is considered wrong and uninformed to blame the victim for the actions of the abuser. If a cis women is being abused by their partner, we would not expect support services to tell her to moderate or change her behaviour to prevent abuse. However due to cissexism within society this is the advice that is often given to trans people. If a trans person’s partner forbids their gender expression, expresses transphobia, or prevents them from engaging with medical or other support services, then this is abuse. Very often though we are asked to “sympathise” with the cis partner. We are presented with a narrative of the trans person being the problem, simply for having the temerity to be themselves, and the abuse framed as justifiable. Even domestic violence support services frame the abuse of trans people through their own lens of support for the non trans partner. Unpicking this means examining one’s own beliefs and prejudices, and cannot be done in a single blog post, but the questions need to start being asked.
Equal access to support services
Currently under UK law trans women can be excluded from domestic violence support services. The Women and Equalities Committee last year highlighted that this inequity must be ended. Until trans people are allowed to fully access the support services designed for victims and survivors then trans victims and survivors will be second class citizens. The exemption must be removed, and replaced with fully inclusive services which recognise the gender of trans people.
As our managing director Tara Stone says;
Trans people’s experiences of domestic violence and abuse deserve their own spotlight. Cisgender people conflating Trans experiences regardless of sexuality with cisgender experiences run the risk of harming Trans people immeasurably. Trans people want and need DVA services that are inclusive for them and of them.
If you would like to know more about our training package Be: Survivors – Working with Transgender Survivors and Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Abuse please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
You can book tickets for the LAGLA/Northumbria Police LGBT event here.