A few weeks ago, I was live on Pride Radio with Tel from Sister Shack, talking all things coaching, abuse, and disability. We covered a LOT of ground in the ninety minutes we were on air, but particularly how abuse and disability disproportionately affect the LGBTQIA+ community. If you want to hear our chat, it will be available soon as a podcast!
A few years ago, I had some longstanding beliefs about intimate partner violence (AKA domestic abuse) that were just plain wrong. I had a picture in my mind of the “battered woman”: bruised face, sad eyes, straight, healthy and helpless. With that picture in my mind, I judged myself, and others, and dismissed a lot of crappy behaviour as “just how things are”.
Then I met more survivors. My belief system fell apart in about ten minutes.
They were just people. Intelligent. Witty. Brilliant conversation, and even better company. Professionals, academics, entrepreneurs. Quite often, their partners never left a single bruise, so they wore their scars on the insides.
Domestic abuse (DA) covers a whole range of behaviour, and its legal definition is expanding as well. Whilst physical violence and sexual violence may form part of the pattern, we now know that emotional and psychological abuse can be just as harmful.
Maybe your partner doesn’t hit you, but do they tell you how stupid/ugly/frigid/selfish you are on a regular basis…
Or they might explode at you for the tiniest of reasons, so you make your life smaller and smaller until it revolves around them…
If you say no to something, is that met with frequent attempts to get you to do the thing anyway - “if you really loved them, you’d do it”…
Do they need to know where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing at all times…
Do you ever feel like you’re going crazy - like their version of events and yours are so wildly different that you doubt yourself again and again…
Basically - are they consistently kind or unkind? Are they supporting or controlling you? Do you feel valued for who you are, or like you’re being moulded into someone unrecognisable? Do you feel safe, all the way down in your guts?
Who does DA affect?
In the UK in 2019, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse, and so did 70,000 men. This is about 5.7% of the total UK population. On average, two women were killed each week, and a further three took their lives as well. It’s estimated that one in three women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. If you know three women, you probably know a survivor. If you know thirty, that’s ten survivors in your circle.
These were the figures I learned from the government’s data. But when you do a little digging, some of the nuances are lost in the big info commonly quoted.
LGBTQIA+ facts and figures…
80% of trans people report experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
41% of gay and bisexual men have experienced domestic abuse at some point.
20% of lesbian women have too.
Aside from Trans people, bisexual women are at highest risk. DA is currently affecting 6% of heterosexual women, 8% of lesbian women and 10.3% of bi women.
Disability facts and figures…
Those with a long-term illness or disability were more likely to be currently living with domestic abuse.
This was true for both men (9.8% vs 3.5%) and women (16.8% vs 6%).
It’s really hard to get data on how DA affects people in the BAME community. 20% of the UK population is comprised of people who are black, Asian or from an ethnic minority, but the Office for National Statistics chose not to explore the stats for this group. Women’s Aid, a UK organisation, state that there is no evidence to suggest that people from non-white ethnic or cultural backgrounds experience increased risk.
What do I do now?
If this post is making you question your relationship, or that of a family member, friend or colleague, the best thing you can do is quietly reach out to someone outside the situation. It could be your bestie, your boss or someone completely neutral. Do it when your (or their) partner is not within earshot.
Listen to what they say to you, then process it for a while. It might not sink in straight away. It might feel completely triggering to you. Try to stay open while your unconscious turns it over in your mind, and listen to your inner voice. You’re pretty smart, y’know?
These places will be able to help…
Telephone = 0808 2000 247
Text-based service = https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/
Broken Rainbow (LGBT specific support):
Telephone = 0800 999 5428 / 0300 999 5428
Text-based service = https://www.brokenrainbow.org.uk/help/online-chat/
Find a local service here: