Domestic Abuse of LGBTQ+ People

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament am 1:28 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party 1:28, 9 Mai 2024

I express my thanks to Collette Stevenson for lodging the motion for today’s debate on domestic abuse in LGBTQI+ relationships. I also give my thanks to Emma Roddick for all the work that she has done, and that I know she will champion from the back benches, for the LGBTQI+ community. I am proud to be closing the debate, and have found all members’ contributions to be powerful and thought-provoking.

Intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships is devastating and heartbreaking, and no one should ever have to endure it. I pay tribute to the brave victims who have shown real courage in recounting their stories and shining a light on this important issue. I also acknowledge the specific barriers that LGBTQI+ people can face when accessing services and support.

All domestic abuse and violence is abhorrent, irrespective of the sex, sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim or the perpetrator. That is why our ground-breaking domestic abuse legislation, which came into effect in 2019, applies to everyone and makes it absolutely clear that coercive and controlling behaviour is domestic abuse and a crime. It is also why the Scottish Government funds services that support LGBTQI+ survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

It is vital that perpetrators are held to account and that victims have access to front-line services that deal with violence and domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 created a specific offence of domestic abuse that covers not just physical abuse, but covers other forms of psychological abuse as well as coercive and controlling behaviour. We must treat domestic abuse survivors with compassion and we must make available services that acknowledge the significant trauma that they experience.

Research on the operation of our legislation on domestic abuse has found that it better reflects victims’ experiences. However, we must never be complacent but must instead recognise that we can always do more and do better.

It is also vital that specialist services are available for survivors. Our delivering equally safe fund has provided support to LGBTQI+ projects that are working to address domestic abuse. That includes Sacro’s FearFree service, which provides one-to-one support for male and LGBT victims of domestic abuse; the voices unheard focus group, which aimed to raise awareness among decision makers of LGBTQI+ experiences of domestic abuse and gender-based violence; and Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, which provides support to all survivors.

Additionally, we allocated £16.2 million between 2017-18 and 2023-24 to support the development of a sexual assault response co-ordination service in every health board in Scotland. SARCS offers a healthcare assessment and forensic medical examination for people who have recently experienced rape or sexual assault. Anyone who is aged 16 or over can, subject to professional judgement, access healthcare and request a forensic medical examination in the days following an assault without first having to make a report to the police. I acknowledge that that is a very sensitive issue.

We know, from listening to survivors, that access to self-referral is an important aspect of giving control back to people. The Scottish Government remains committed to continuous improvement of SARCS, with further funding planned for 2024-25, bringing our total investment to almost £18 million over seven years.

Although domestic abuse is most frequently perpetrated by males against their female partners, all domestic abuse and violence is unacceptable. We published our refreshed equally safe strategy last December. The strategy recognises LGBTQI+ people’s experiences of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence. Key LGBTQI+ stakeholders were consulted as part of the engagement process, and helped to shape the strategy and its references to LGBTQI+ people’s experiences.

We know that the global evidence base shows that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by specific forms of violence such as domestic abuse. The equally safe strategy is based on the framing of the United Nations and World Health Organization, and has been acknowledged as a model of excellence.

However, our approach does not negate the experiences of male victims of crimes such as domestic and sexual violence. Gender norms that promote ideals of masculinity that are based on men’s power over women and children can also lead to men’s experiences of abuse during childhood and sexual violence during adulthood. That is why the Scottish Government understands LGBTQI+ people’s experiences of domestic abuse to be a form of gender-based violence. Key stakeholders also understand the issue in that way.

We are committed to advancing equality for LGBTQI+ people and to promoting, protecting and realising the rights of every LGBTQI+ person in Scotland. We will continue to fund third sector organisations to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience can help to improve outcomes for LGBTQI+ communities across Scotland.

I thank Dr Steven Maxwell, Professor Jamie Frankis and colleagues for their research on LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence and I thank the victims who bravely shared their stories. As was highlighted in the research and at the subsequent parliamentary round-table event in February, it is clear that significant challenges remain for LGBTQI+ victims of domestic abuse.

We do not want any victim of LGBTQI+ domestic abuse to be made to feel invisible and we encourage anyone who has experienced abuse to seek the support to which they are entitled. I have outlined some of that support today.

I am fully committed to tackling domestic abuse and am always willing to look at how we can improve our response to all forms of domestic abuse, including in same-sex relationships, by building on the provision that we already have. My door is always open to any MSP who wants to continue conversations on how we can improve things. In response to Emma Harper’s request, I say that I would be very happy to visit the organisation in the south of Scotland that she mentioned.

By working collaboratively and innovatively, we can build a Scotland that is free from all forms of domestic abuse, where no one is left behind.