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Sexual violence services and the Rainbow community

Sexual violence services and the Rainbow community

More funding for sexual violence agencies is fantastic and much needed – but will it mean takatāpui, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex survivors get the help they need?

New research in New Zealand shows people from Rainbow communities are struggling to get the right help after sexual and partner violence.

“The barriers start with many of us thinking that the services out there are not for us,” says Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence project manager, Sandra Dickson. “That’s about how invisible specialist sexual violence services are for lots of people in Rainbow communities, and unfortunately, it’s also about what happens when some people ask for help and receive transphobic, biphobic or homophobic responses.”

The research, funded by It’s Not OK, includes a survey about experiences of violence and a series of community hui from Whangarei to Dunedin to ask Rainbow communities what they needed.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who came to the hui, answered our survey, or got in touch through our website. The stories of abuse people shared were painful, but maybe what’s even more painful was existing frameworks and responses to partner and sexual violence are inadequate at best and harmful at worst.”

“For Māori, Pacifica and Asian people from Rainbow communities, there was a real gap around culturally appropriate services as well as services with Rainbow knowledge. There just are not enough kaupapa Māori services out there.”

“In one hui, we heard of a trans woman who had called the Police for help after being attacked by her husband. They arrived, her husband lied to them and said he’d just found out she was trans and that’s why he attacked her, the Police left without giving any help,” says Ms Dickson. “We also heard of situations where gay and bisexual men were told they couldn’t be open about their sexuality in survivor support groups, because it might make other (straight) men feel uncomfortable, and people being told their sexual abuse had probably made them gay or trans.”

“It’s obvious the sexual violence sector has been doing their best with not enough funding. We just hope that new funding is going to mean completely rethinking how to support people from Rainbow communities. Because what’s happening right now is just not good enough.”

Ms Dickson says that most Rainbow survivors don’t even try to access help because they don’t think it’s for them. “There needs to be serious planning, resources and training put into making sure specialist sexual violence services know how to be safe places for people from Rainbow communities, but also so that Rainbow communities know these places are for them too.”

Some figures:

• 407 people with diverse ethnicities, gender identities, ages and sexualities answered the survey

• 18 community hui were held with more than 240 people attending around the country

• 150 people who answered the survey needed specialist help after sexual violence – but only 40 tried to go to a specialist agency

• Impacts of sexual violence were severe and included high rates of insomnia and nightmares, anxiety, depression, avoiding things that reminded you of anything related to the sexual violence incident, being frightened of the person who hurt you, having physical injuries, and drinking or using drugs more than usual

• Most people experienced sexual violence from their partner, but more than 1/3 experienced sexual violence from a stranger

• Sexual violence included unwanted touching, groping and sexual activities which were not consented to in otherwise consensual encounters

• Half the respondents answering the sexual violence questions were raped by someone when they were drunk, unconscious or asleep and unable to give consent

Recommendations from the report include Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence becoming a central hub for information, resources and training to raise awareness and improve responses for Rainbow community members experiencing violence. The report also recommends:

• Including sex, sexuality and gender diverse people’s experiences of partner and sexual violence at strategic, policy and service planning levels including victimization research, national prevention campaigns, healthy relationships programmes, and service funding

• Strategy and policy responses stop treating sex and gender as binary (only male and female) and unchanging from birth. Neither of these things are true, and both harm all Rainbow people, particularly trans and gender diverse people.

• Training for “mainstream” violence services on preventing and responding to sex, sexuality and gender diverse people’s experiences of partner and sexual violence.

• Training for Rainbow community agencies on preventing and responding to sex, sexuality and gender diverse people’s experiences of partner and sexual violence.

• Creating resources for Rainbow communities focused on friends, family and whānau knowing what to do to help.

• Creating resources which are culturally appropriate and diverse for the many communities inside the Rainbow community which explore healthy relationships and outing violence.

• Creating resources which are culturally appropriate and diverse for families, whānau and wider communities to support their Rainbow family members.

Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence is funded by It’s Not OK. The fundholder for this work is Ara Taiohi, a peak body for the youth sector and administrator of the Queer/Trans* Grants. You can read the full report, Building Rainbow Communities Free of Partner and Sexual Violence 2016, at . You can also download factsheets for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex survivors, safety planning for people in Rainbow relationships where one person is using violence, and information about the law and consent.


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