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It’s time we addressed the problem in our community: domestic abuse

By Ross Semple

I know two guys – let’s call them Robert and Daniel.

Robert and Daniel were a young couple, both professionals in London, and had been living with one another for a few months into their year-long relationship. They were sociable with their friends, would always remember birthdays and always the louder of the party guests. They were happy.

Daniel was younger than Robert. He had a job and although Robert brought in most the household income, Daniel was never made to feel guilty when Robert picked up the bill after a meal. In fact, Robert was so good with the money he had the idea that they should set up joint accounts so they’d feel closer as a couple.

When Robert was away; Daniel would entertain himself like anyone else, go to dinner with some friends, see a movie and bought a new jumper while waiting for Robert to return at the weekend.

Over time, Robert changed. He was different. The expression on his face had changed, the atmosphere in their home had become stagnant and eye contact was limited. On one occasion, Daniel asked what was wrong. “Who did you have dinner with?”, Robert asked. Daniel explained it was an old friend and nothing had happened, but he could not finish the sentence before a fist struck his cheek. Daniel fell to the floor, confused and bloody. Robert reached down and whispered, “I don’t know why you make me do it”.

These incidents continued. Robert frequently reminded Daniel that he would be nothing without him and Daniel believed him. Robert took control of Daniel’s life, his money, and alienated him from his friends until he ‘earned’ back Robert’s trust. Daniel became numb, forcing smiles and hiding pain – too afraid no one would understand.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has become the first force in the UK to officially record domestic abuse specific to the LGBT community.

The force currently records domestic abuse under code D61 or D62 and sexuality is only reported when it is the motivation of a hate crime. Now the force can record LGBT+ Domestic Abuse as D66.

No other force in the UK is recording information this way and it is hoped to capture trends unique to the LGBT+ community leading to a more refined way to tackle the growing issue.

Recently, Buzzfeed asked London Metropolitan Police what its procedures were when faced with a scenario like Robert and Daniel’s and what they found was more troubling. Buzzfeed asked the Met how many recorded instances of LGBT Domestic Violence and they could not answer – even when given scenarios.

Detective Chief Inspector Myra Ball from GMP said: “This shows our commitment to supporting all victims of domestic abuse in the best way possible, for them”

Domestic abuse can affect anyone and doesn’t discriminate between gender, orientation, race or social standing. Research from the LGBT+ charity Stonewall, suggests that 25% of all LGB people will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

The problem of domestic abuse grows more worrying when you look more closely at the statistics. Most shocking piece is from The Scottish Transgender Alliance, which found 80% of trans people had experienced emotional, sexual, or physical abuse from a partner or ex-partner.

Manchester’s D66 coding could help break down the walls that prevent some LGBT+ people from reporting. More importantly these new codes will allow us to help more effectively.

Under previous codes it was difficult to get a clear picture on how the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities are affected by domestic abuse. Recording the unique struggles of LGBT+ victims will help the police detect patterns and in turn aid in the creation of tailored services that better support the community.

The organisation I helped found is also bringing this fight to new heights. Stay Brave UK recently helped and supported the ratification of the Istanbul Convention Bill, which goes for royal accent this week. The bill will be the driving force in transforming the way the UK Government tackles domestic abuse and has assurances that it doesn’t discriminate against gender or orientation.

However, unless police forces take the time to recognise and record the problem then these bills could be redundant and stories like Robert & Daniel’s will continue to not be recorded.

If you want to talk to someone about domestic abuse you can contact one of the following organisations:

LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Greater Manchester Helpline: 0161 636 7525

Words by Alexander Morgan