Tight Budget Adds to Growing LGBTQ Domestic Violence Problem

LGBT Intimate ViolenceReports of domestic violence and fatalities among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community are on the rise, according to a report released in 2009 by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). Yet while the coalition, a network of over 40 LGBTQ advocacy organizations nationwide a decrease in funding for programs as a result of the current economic climate in the country further complicates the problem.

“NCAVP member programs face sharp increases in calls from LGBTQ survivors while sustaining 50 percent or more in cuts to staffing and programs closures because of the financial crisis,” said Lisa Gilmore of the Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project, a non-profit LGBTQ resource and service center based in Chicago, Illinois and coalition member of NCAVP.

The report found a 15 percent increase in intimate partner violence cases with some of these conflicts ending in a fatality. Six cases of intimate partner violence resulted in a death, a 50 percent increase in fatalities over the last three years. And about 76 percent of all cases of domestic violence reports in 2009 were from Latino and Latina survivors, many of which live in the Los Angeles area.

For undocumented immigrants such as Angelica, who is referred to only by her first name in the report for her safety, finding an escape from a violent relationship became even more complicated in a country where she has very few rights.

After moving from Central America to California, Angelica found a job as a housekeeper and fell in love with her employer, Maria. After moving with her son into Maria’s home, her relationship with Maria took a turn for the worse. While living with Maria, Angelica endured verbal and physical abuse. After a severe argument put Angelica in the hospital, she immediately fled Maria’s home with her son to a domestic violence shelter.

Angelica is a Spanish-speaking monolingual and because the staff at the shelter did not speak Spanish, Angelica was not able to participate in the group counseling sessions. She finally sought services through another shelter in Los Angeles, which helped her cope with the trauma of leaving her home country and surviving an abusive relationship.

Although the report found a 17 percent decrease in domestic violence reports from LGBTQ immigrants, some service providers say Angelica’s story is all too common.

“We know that immigrant survivors of intimate partner violence face additional barriers to service including anti-immigrant sentiment, language barriers, lack of knowledge of local resources for survivors and the fact that their batterers may use these factors to keep them isolated,” said Catherine Shugrue Dos Santos, the deputy director of client services at the New York City Anti-Violence Project

The report also lists limited access to transportation and effective health care as other barriers for undocumented immigrants to getting services. These combined barriers might also account for the decrease in domestic violence reports from LGBTQ immigrants.

“We know that LGBTQ survivors need specific and culturally competent services to stay safe and our primary recommendation in this report is that funding for LGBTQ-specific anti-violence programs is needed now more than ever,” Gilmore said.

But even with limited funding, the coalition’s members are committed to improving services to LGBTQ domestic violence survivors, especially immigrants.

“We at the Anti-Violence Project and other NCAVP members across the country do our best to enhance cultural competency and language capacity relevant to LGBTQ communities in our region and to partner with immigrant service agencies to better serve these communities,” said Dos Santos.

Aside from more funding to LGBTQ-specific programming at domestic violence shelters, the coalition also recommends cultural competency training for domestic violence shelters and police departments in order to adequately meet the specific needs of LGBT survivors escaping a violent relationship.

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