This week (April 26th to May 1st 2022) is Lesbian Visibility Week. This annual observance has been marked since 1990 and aims to bring awareness to lesbian issues and to celebrate the lesbian community. Though lesbian rights and social acceptance has come a long way, there is still a significant problem amongst our community that has remained stagnant: the prevalence of violence against and amongst queer women.
The LGBTQ community, overall, experiences higher rates of hate crimes and are at an elevated risk of homicidal violence. Every year, the UK government releases police data on hate crimes on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The term “hate crime” can cover verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. In the UK, the number of hate crimes against LGBTQ people has been on a steady rise since 2015.
In the year ending March 2021, there were 124,091 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales; of which 18,596 were sexual orientation hate crimes and 2,799 transgender hate crimes. This shows an increase of seven per cent (to 17,135) for sexual orientation hate crimes, and three per cent (to 2,630) for transgender identity hate crimes.
A hypothesis on why these crimes have risen in recent years may be that more people are reporting them. However, according to Stonewall UK, only one out of five hate crimes against LGBT people is reported to the police. The LGBTQ+ community has historically not had a good relationship with law enforcement and tends to distrust it, understandably so: despite the increase in reporting, the number of cases that have led to prosecutions has decreased.
Violence Against Lesbians
Because of gender-based discrimination, queer women — (trans) lesbians and bisexual women – face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of both strangers and intimate partners.
Women who do not conform to societal expectations of sexuality and gender presentation are at heightened risk of violence based on their sexuality or gender identity, and women who leave men for a lesbian relationship are at particular risk of facing violence at the hands of their ex-partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 43.8 percent of lesbian women and 61.1 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking in their lifetime as opposed to 35 percent of heterosexual women.
Furthermore, lesbians face alarming rates of violence at the hands of other women. According to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Centre, LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts. About 17-45% of lesbians report having been the victim of at least one act of physical violence perpetrated by a lesbian partner.
Though domestic violence in lesbian relationships is a serious social concern, the topic has often been ignored in both academic analyses and in the establishment of social services for battered women. The longstanding heteronormative narrative around domestic abuse is that it is an issue that mainly affects heterosexual women, which creates a fear amongst those in the LGBTQIA community that no one will believe them. Furthermore, if the victim is still in the closet, they may refuse to seek help if their abuser threatens to expose their orientation or identity.
Despite experiencing higher instances of physical and sexual violence compared to heterosexual individuals, LGBTQ+ people, especially trans women, lesbians, and bisexual women, are less likely to seek support and shelter.
Back Off Back Up
Across Rainbows is working hard to make Brighton & Hove a safer space for all queer people. Our Back Off Back Up campaign aims to offer safe spaces where queer individuals can request help, and we are currently working on a training program which will educate the staff of our partner venues on LGBT+ identities and experiences to ensure that all LGBT+ victims are offered the support that meets their needs.
If you happen to find yourself in an unsafe or unsure situation, look for a #BackOffBackUp stickers in the windows of our partner venues, and you’ll know that spot is a safe place for you to get help, call a friend or family member, or to charge your phone.
LBT women deserve safe spaces where they can be themselves and know that the specific challenges of their situation will be understood and supported effectively. Help us make our city a safer space for all queer women.