I didn’t know what to do after he beat me up. But despite what he did, I felt like I had to protect him
of emergency accommodation.”
Stonewall Housing’s advisors offer help to those who want to escape an abusive home and for those clients who want to stay, but consider their options.
“A lot of the contact we have with them comes through our advice line,” adds Maria. “A quarter of our clients experience domestic violence, which is quite a high number. We deal with more than 1,200 people per year. And that abuse can also come from direct or extended family members.”
But what constitutes an abusive relationship? It’s not, as you might assume, just physical violence. It can include mental abuse such as constant put-downs, threats to ‘out’ you, being extremely possessive or
For Danny, it took three more months before he wised up. “I was mortified and embarrassed, and I didn’t know what to do after he beat me up,” he admits. “I went to stay at my mum’s house and told her I’d been mugged. I couldn’t tell her the truth or she and my brothers would’ve killed him and – despite what he did – I felt like I had to protect him. ‘It wasn’t his fault’, I thought, ‘I must’ve provoked him.’ He told me this kind of thing often happens in gay relationships because sometimes there’s too much testosterone in the house. I believed him, because I thought it was only women who were abused, not men.
“My boyfriend was so sorry for what he did and, eventually, I agreed to move back in. I was wary and he was on his best behaviour. But a month or so later at a bar, I was chatting to a guy I went to college with and I could see my boyfriend was getting funny about it. I tried to calm him down and he seemed OK, but later that night he followed the guy into the toilet and glassed him, for no reason other than he knew me. It was horrific.”
It’s an all-too-common story for Broken Rainbow, Britain’s only national domestic violence helpline manned by LGBT-friendly staff.
“In the heterosexual community, domestic abuse is widely known about,” explains Jackie Fernandez, the organisation’s CEO. “We know there’s just as many – if not more – victims in same-sex relationships. But most people don’t recognise domestic violence and abuse exists between gay couples. The figure could even be higher because there are more ways to abuse a partner, like threatening to out them to their friends, family or even their children.
“Even those in an abusive relationship often don’t realise that’s what they’re in. Some men will tell us, ‘My partner’s not really abusing me but we sometimes have rough sex and it gets out of hand, but that’s what happens in gay relationships.’ It’s not. And a lot of people confuse rape with a sexual pattern. Our community doesn’t recognise domestic abuse as a serious issue.”
There are more than 500 refuges for women across the country but, shockingly, there are no immediate access refuges for gay men.
“There are a few housing association and hostel type accommodations, but there’s usually a waiting list or interview process,” adds Jackie. “So if you need to get out because your life’s in danger, you’ll have to go to a friend or family member’s house, or to the police.”
It was too late for John Edwards to get help. In May 2010, his civil partner Michael Edwards, 32, was convicted of Britain’s first-ever domestic violence murder within a