PACFA Webinar: Domestic violence in the LGBTIQA community

In March, the PACFA College of Counselling presented a live webinar on domestic violence in LGBTIQA communities. The webinar was part of a series of webinars by the College of Counselling exploring power and control – What all counsellors need to know about domestic & family violence.

The webinar was presented by Anthony Lekkas, followed by a discussion panel with Don Secomb, Trish Thompson and Kieran O’Loughlan.

Anthony Lekkas, who is a social worker, counsellor and LGBTIQA family violence specialist, looked at how society shapes the way love and intimacy can happen for LGBTIQA people in intimate relationships, as well as how abuse occurs and its impact for LGBTIQA people. 

Anthony identified the complexity of working with DV/FV in the LGBTIQA community when he explained the difficulty in even naming the group of people in focus.  He stated he was going to use the word, Queer, though he was aware that this term was criticised by some.  However, he pointed out that the term LGBTIQA similarly was not without its share of detractors.  This clearly highlighted the need to consider political, cultural, and social elements and to keep in mind the importance of understanding the client’s experience and context. This theme was revisited at different points in the presentation.

After using the Riddle Scale, to allow the audience to consider the attitude to gay people when they were in high school or currently in the workplace, Anthony showed a short video clip entitled “When you fall in love in the closet” which very effectively demonstrated how different it is for gay men when they fall in love; the very strong conditions that exist for them to be able to show their love and gain support.  It showed clearly that there remain unspoken social rules about whose voices get noticed and whose relationships get celebrated. 

Anthony emphasised the consequential invisibility of queer relationships and the fact that they fall through the cracks of both mainstream responses and the manner of responding.  He gave an example of the police, who despite their endeavours to provide a better service, continue to provide queer people with responses that differ significantly from those offered to heterosexual couples. 

Anthony then turned his attention to the definition of domestic and family violence.  He pointed out that there were differences in people’s views; that some understand it as a communication issue rather than one of power and control.  Likewise, he said, there are some that think that domestic violence is caused by individual pathology, relationship and communication issues or a cycle of violence. 

Anthony spoke about the shame felt in male relationships; about the advantages and disadvantages of “queer solidarity”.  He pointed out how because of this, calling the police might be the last thing that the victim in a gay relationship would do.  In addition, he described how Aboriginal men find accessing the white system oppressive.  Anthony emphasised that like with heterosexual relationships, this work should not be done in a couple space and that feminist and anti-oppressive frameworks should be used. 

Finally, a vigorous discussion occurred with the involvement of the panel.  It was made clear that it is vitally important when working with gay couples, to seek the history of past and present same-sex and bi-sexual relationships, to give them full recognition and to celebrate their existence. 

Thank you to the hosts for a stimulating and informative webinar which was a great learning opportunity for participants.

The webinar is available as a recording (members $15, non-member $25) at the PACFA Portal. The webinar recording can be counted as Category B CPD for PACFA Members and Registrants.

The webinar is part of a series of webinars on domestic violence presented by the College of Counselling. The next live webinar titled “Children’s experiences of family violence: The most in need, the last to receive” will take place on 20 May. For booking go to the PACFA Portal.