The Scottish Government’s definition of domestic abuse as an offence perpetrated by men against women does “serious damage” to gay and transgendered people suffering violence in the home, an academic has said.
Law lecturer Brian Dempsey said the “peculiar” way Scotland defines domestic abuse renders sufferers who are in same-sex relationships “invisible”.
Mr Dempsey, who teaches at the University of Dundee, has now called for a reworking of the way such abuse is defined by ministers.
The official definition, however, states that: “Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), can be perpetrated by partners or ex partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse…”
Mr Dempsey said the Scottish definition of domestic abuse as primarily about male abusers controlling female victims “dominates” publicity materials and training for medical staff, police officers, judges, housing workers and civil servants. As a consequence, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people who suffer abuse at home, as well as their children, are being marginalised, he argued.
He said: “My impression is that both politicians and people involved in delivering domestic abuse services are sympathetic to lesbian, gay bisexual and trans people but are generally pretty unaware of our needs – especially so in relation to transgendered people.
“But the overwhelming emphasis on presenting domestic abuse as something that men do to women means that people such as accident and emergency nurses or GPs or housing officers just aren’t picking up on the signals that an LGBT client might need help.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Domestic abuse must not be tolerated in any form and the Scottish Government has committed over £55 million during the period 2008-12 to tackling domestic abuse and violence against women.
“We have received international recognition and praise for our gendered definition, which does not exclude or deny other experiences, but does focus on the majority experience, that 83% of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police in 2009-10 involved a female victim and male perpetrator.
“In addition, we have funded a helpline for male victims and the LGBT youth domestic abuse project.”