Family violence can happen to anyone, no matter what race, age, sexuality or gender identity but everyone has the right to be seen, believed and safe.
Last year, May 28 was declared the inaugural LGBTIQA+ Family Violence Awareness Day. The day was established to raise awareness of the unique experiences and circumstances of intimate partner and family violence for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBTIQA+) people with the aim to bring an end to it.
This year the theme is #seenandbelieved.
Family violence is one of the biggest issues impacting communities, including Ballarat. According to data from 2017, there are approximately 10,000 LGBTIQA+ people living across Ballarat and commuting in from smaller towns across the wider Central Highlands to access services, for work or study.
While research into the impact on LGBTIQA+ people is limited, what exists reveals that intimate partner violence is reported at similar rates in same-gender relationships as in heterosexual relationships.
There can also be significant histories of violence against LGBTIQA+ people, particularly in families of origin. Often this occurs after a person still living at home 'comes out' to their family, then subjected to violence, abuse or rejection.
According to research from La Trobe University, more than six in ten LGBTIQA+ people in Australia have experienced family violence, with parents the most common perpetrators (70 per cent), followed by siblings and extended family.
Verbal abuse is most common (41 per cent), followed closely by LGBTIQA+ related abuse (40 per cent), emotional and then physical abuse.
However, recognition of all of this is poor.
While legal protections have increased in recent years and reforms made to the response and support systems, LGBTIQA+ people continue to experience inequality driven by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and intersexphobia. This exacerbates vulnerability to family violence.
Models for preventing and responding to family violence often focus solely on mainstream heterosexual relationships, with data highlighting that men are most commonly perpetrators of violence against women and that most incidents occur behind closed doors in the family home.
With myths that violence doesn't occur in same-sex relationships, many LGBTIQA+ victim-survivors have not received adequate support.
The way LGBTIQA+ people experience intimate partner and family violence is often unique, but there are numerous factors which may prevent it being identified, reported or support being sought.
One of the biggest factors is that there is a lack of role models to demonstrate what healthy LGBTIQA+ relationships looked like.
There is also a lack of information and awareness about what family violence looks like towards LGBTIQA+ people and where people can seek help.
Similar to family violence in heterosexual relationships, it can include verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse.
Dr Jess Cadwallader, Principal Strategic Advisor of the Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee, said it wasn't just who was in the relationship that was different but also the forms of violence.
It is often perpetrated in different ways towards LGBTIQA+ people, including using a person's sexuality or gender identity to assert power and control or a person being rejected by their families or threatened to be 'outed' to family members, their workplace or friends.
Hormones or gender-affirming medication may also be hidden or a person deliberately misgendered with their birth-assigned sex used to address them instead.
To address the issue locally, many family violence services in the Central Highlands region have completed or are in the process of completing Rainbow Tick accreditation. This accreditation is designed to ensure accessibility for LGBTQIA+ people.
To raise awareness of the issue this week, a small working group has been created - including Cafs, the City of Ballarat, Berry Street, CHIFVC and WRISC - to raise the profile of the issue and response to it.
Dr Cadwallader said services were working to raise awareness as there could be poor recognition of the issue of family violence in LGBTIQA+ communities.
"Particularly when the examples presented to understand family violence use heterosexual examples. The unique forms of violence and the perpetrators of violence may not be recognised because they don't match that model."
Dr Cadwallader said the family violence services in the Central Highlands was committed to improving responses for LGBTIQA+ people.
Resources will be shared internally in organisations while posts will be made on social media to mark the day.
For help, contact 1800 RESPECT, QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people), or visit The Orange Door in Ballarat. TO phone, call 1800 219 819.