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Reports of LGBT Domestic Violence on the Rise
by Jon Garbo


The number of reported incidents of domestic violence among LGBT couples in 1999 rose 23 percent from 1998 figures, according to the fourth annual report on LGBT domestic violence by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a network of US advocacy groups.

The NCAVP documented 3,120 incidents of LGBT domestic violence last year, based on statistics from San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Colorado, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

"People in our community are less likely to think of the police as something that�s helpful."
"While significant for what it reveals about the broader incidence of domestic violence in the LGTB community, the rise in reported case numbers should not be interpreted to reflect an absolute increase in the incidence of such violence overall," according to the study. Enhancements in staffing, program capacity and improved outreach efforts may have contributed to the higher numbers, the study said.

Incidents were tallied based on calls NCAVP affiliate organizations received from people looking for services or support, explained Emily Pitt, MSW, domestic violence advocate at Boston�s Fenway Community Health, an NCAVP affiliate. The report did not examine police surveillance data because, said Pitt, "people in our community are less likely to think of the police as something that�s helpful, and are more likely to report domestic violence to someone who�s LGBT-sensitive."

The report found that incidents of domestic violence are roughly split between gay men and women. Race was divided less equally: 45 percent of the abused were Caucasian, 17 percent were Latin, 11 percent were African-American and 4 percent were Asian/ Pacific Island. Forty-four percent of the abused were between the ages of 30 to 44, 21 percent were 23 to 29, 12 percent were 45 to 64, 4 percent were 18 to 22 and 1 percent were under 18 or over 65.

The accuracy of the report may be difficult to gauge, however, because LGBT domestic violence often goes unreported. "We believe the actual number of cases is much higher than is reflected in this report," said Pitt. This may be especially true of transgenders, who made up only around three percent of report's total incidents. "The extraordinary low rates of reporting among transgender-identified victims may be attributable to the perceived or actual lack of appropriate resources to serve them," the study said.

There are a variety of reasons LGBT people may be reluctant to report domestic violence, said Pitt. These include "fear of being outed, fear of the police or the courts, lack of services� and/ or lack of understanding that domestic violence is not just about abuse between a man and a woman, but can include same-sex relationships," she added.

Updated: Wednesday, November 8th 2000



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