Helping LGBT Survivors of Domestic Violence
A toolkit for lawyers working with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender survivors of domestic violence has been developed by the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Commission on Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice Section, in collaboration will the National LGBT Bar Association.
The toolkit outlines the civil legal protections available for LGBT survivors, such as civil protection orders, gives tips and resources on working with LGBT survivors and provides an up-to-date list of state laws affecting available legal protections. The toolkit also suggests additional resources for finding more information and training.
While there are some similarities between domestic violence committed in heterosexual relationships and LGBT relationships, there are some significant differences. Some of the domestic violence experiences of LGBT individuals include outing — when an abuser knows that his/her partner does not want other people to know about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and uses that information against the survivor; isolation, which can be heightened in small LGBT communities; and systemic oppression, when services such as police, shelter providers, courts and domestic violence agencies exhibit homophobia and/or transphobia.
Sometimes LGBT survivors are reluctant to seek services, thinking that they may be treated poorly or unfairly. The toolkit recommends several tips about how lawyers can prepare their practices to be receptive to and affirming for LGBT survivors.
An electronic version of the toolkit is available for free online at: www.abanet.org/irr/enterprise/LGBT.
Educational webinars on legal issues and remedies for LGBT victims of domestic violence can be accessed at: http://www.abanet.org/domviol/2009webinars.html.