RUSSELL VICKERY is on a mission to raise awareness of domestic violence in LGBTQI+ relationships.
Through his cabaret show, My Other Closet, Vickery aims to take people on an informative journey.
"The show has been developed from the perspective of somebody who has lived through a domestic violence situation and the best way to get people to understand what that is all about is for them to actually feel what it would be like to be there," Vickery said.
"I don’t pull any punches about what went on in my relationship. I talk about the physical violence and I talk about the emotional violence. I talk about the walking on eggshells and the whole 'sorry, I’ll never do that again', the build-up and all the things that people in domestic violence situations experience."
The statistics of violence in LGBTQI+ relationships were revealed through findings handed down by the Royal Commission into Family Violence in March 2016.
But Vickery said these numbers were something that have not been widely spoken of due to the LGBTQI+ community being under the spotlight with the marriage equality vote.
"I have been doing this since 2014 but some people in my community contacted us before the marriage equality vote happened and were concerned that I was talking about [domestic violence] before the vote happened, but the reality is that it happens in heterosexual relationships too.
"All it does is normalise relationships - ours are the same as everybody else's," he said.
I don’t pull any punches about what went on in my relationship. I talk about the physical violence and I talk about the emotional violence.Russell Vickery
Following one particularly devastating altercation in his former relationship, in which his skull was cracked open, Vickery decided to contact a counselling service. However, upon calling, he was told his "lifestyle" could not be accommodated.
That incident was 15 years ago and Vickery thinks the service provision has improved, but there is still work to be done.
A Victorian study of LGBTQI+ people undertaken by the The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University revealed that one in three respondents had been in an abusive relationship, with 80 per cent saying the abuse was psychological and 60 per cent indicating the abuse was physical.
Another study from 2014, undertaken by the LGBTQI+ Domestic and Family Violence Interagency and the Centre for Social Research in Health at the University of New South Wales, found the rates of abuse were higher for bisexual and transgender people.
The research highlighted that 59 per cent of bisexuals had experienced emotional or verbal abuse and 42 per cent had experienced physical or sexual.
The numbers were even higher for transgender people, with 75 per cent indicating that they had experienced emotional or verbal abuse and 53 per cent indicating they had experienced physical or sexual.
Matthew Parsons, Manager of LGBTQI+ Domestic Violence at Rainbow Health Victoria said it was providing training to mainstream Family Violence Services to help them better understand the unique needs of the LGBTQI+ people who were experiencing family violence and making them more safe and inclusive for them to access.
One example is the Rainbow Tick.
"The Rainbow Tick is a whole system to help organisations ensure that all their systemic processes are inclusive to enable their workforce to be inclusive in their individual practice to make a structure around quality improvement so it can be culturally safe," he said.
"To develop these capacity building initiatives, we worked closely with Family Safety Victoria, the State Government agency leading strategies to address the Royal Commission’s recommendations," he said.
This Friday, a presentation followed by a performance of My Other Closet will be hosted at Ballarat Mechanics Institute for people in a professional capacity as first disclosure points for LGBTQI+ people, from police to relationship councillors, to attend a training day to learn how to recognise, respond and refer LGBTQI+ people in abusive situations.