Domestic Abuse of LGBTQ+ People

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament am 1:14 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Ceidwadwyr 1:14, 9 Mai 2024

I pay tribute to Collette Stevenson for her relentless work on this issue and for bringing stakeholders to the Parliament earlier this year. I congratulate her on the longest motion that I have ever read in the Parliament; in fact, it reads more like a report, which is excellent and a testament to her office, too. There is a lot in that report to get through, but I will cover three specific areas that I think we should debate.

First, I put on record my thanks and tribute to those who did a lot of the groundwork on and research into the subject, particularly Dr Steven Maxwell of the University of Glasgow, who has relentlessly kept MSPs up to date on his work and informed the stakeholder round table that we had in February, which I attended and was grateful for.

I thank those in the third sector, too. Emma Harper mentioned Galop, which organises the national domestic abuse helpline that specifically helps LGBT people.

One of the most profound things that I heard at that round table was the lived experience of many of the young people who attended, and some of the very moving and difficult stories that they shared with us. It is never easy when we attend such groups and listen to what is happening in the real world, when we are so often caught up in statistics and policy documents.

All of that is important, because it goes without saying that domestic abuse is abhorrent and unacceptable to all of us. Indeed, all parties have signed up to that view over the past couple of years. The DASA legislation that we have passed, as well as other pieces of legislation and the debate that we had last week are good examples of cross-party working and of how we, as a Parliament, use the powers available to us to tackle that abhorrent practice.

The experience of LGBT people in particular is quite unique. For all the reasons that we have just heard, they often feel an inability to report something, given the stigma that comes with it—not just of being in an LGBT relationship, which is often difficult depending on the community that they live in, but of having to admit that they are suffering some form of abuse or coercive behaviour and physical and mental violence. I would say that the equally safe strategy provides a good framework, unpicking how we take a Government policy and design it around particular groups of people to meet their needs.

One of the things that came out of Dr Maxwell’s report was a welcome analysis of the importance of variety in the different routes and pathways by which services can be delivered to people. The awareness of access to those services is important, too.

Importantly, we need LGBT+-specific services, because most people in the community who have been surveyed said that they felt “invisible”—that is the language that they used—to other services. There was a huge reluctance to report to the police; in fact, Police Scotland attendees at the round table acknowledged as much, and a lot of work has been done on training front-line officers to deal with DASA and the situations that they respond to. However, what happens when they turn up and face a domestic situation in an LGBT household? Are they fully confident that they know how to deal with that and that they can gather the appropriate evidence that the Crown might use down the line? I am not convinced that they are, and nor was the round table.

I want to make a point about awareness and barriers to access to services. A lot has been said over the past few weeks about organisations such as LGBT Youth Scotland, the TIE campaign and other organisations that help and educate young people. Education is absolutely key here: in my view, the earlier we educate people about appropriate relationships and what constitutes abuse, the better. There is nothing controversial in that.

I would just like to put on record my personal thanks to Emma Roddick for her work in Government. I know that many people have been gloating over her exit, which is disgraceful. Everyone who gets into public office deserves respect and thanks.

Finally, I thank Collette Stevenson for bringing this really important matter to the chamber, and I hope that we can revisit it in future.