15 Jan 2021

Survey reveals higher risk of sexual violence for gay, lesbian or bisexual people

10:49 am on 15 January 2021

Gay, lesbian or bisexual people are more than twice as likely to suffer from sexual violence or family harm than their heterosexual counterparts.

woman sitting on bed in room with light from window (abuse concept)

File photo. Photo: 123RF

The Ministry of Justice figures from the Crime and Victims Survey shows gay, lesbian or bisexual people are more likely to experience crime, but also less likely to report it.

The justice sector is trying to address the numbers, and said having concrete data is a good place to start.

On average, 16 percent of New Zealanders are likely to experience intimate partner violence at some point in their life, while 24 percent will experience sexual violence.

Lesbian or gay people are more than twice as likely to have experienced that kind of violence, and bisexual adults are almost three times as likely to suffer from sexual violence as the average New Zealander.

Tim Hampton, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Justice, said the survey has put a concrete number on the harm caused to those communities.

"These groups are 50 percent more likely to become victims of crime, and more concerningly, the survey showed that two-thirds of bisexual adults had been victims of sexual violence at some stage of their lifetime.

"That compares to a quarter for all New Zealanders, and 52 percent for gay or lesbian adults."

Hampton said the survey helps officials to understand what sort of support communities need.

He said crime has a huge financial cost, which is why it is so important to improve the outcomes for those communities.

"It's into the billions of dollars every year that just family violence and sexual violence alone is costing the economy and costing the people here.

"From the financial side the need for investment is there, and hence the $200 million investment the government put in in Budget20."

Reasons behind scale of violence unclear

The question of why lesbian, gay and bisexual people are so likely to suffer from sexual or domestic violence has not been answered, but it is something officials want to understand.

Central District Police Commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger

Sue Schwalger. Photo: RNZ / Simon Williams

Police assistant commissioner Sue Schwalger said they are dedicated to preventing crime, and are working with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community to understand their needs.

"Police are aware of the low numbers of reporting in terms of these types of crimes and these communities," Schwalger said.

"We have recently held workshops with vulnerable communities, asking for their help in understanding what they are facing and how best to report, and how best we can support them."

Schwalger urged victims of crimes to come forward, and insisted there will be no judgement or stigma from officers dealing with lesbian, gay or bisexual victims.

"If you are a victim of any type of crime, including a sexual assault, I would encourage you to report it.

"We will do our very best to make sure that your experience going through the reporting and the process will be sensitive to your needs, and we'll support you in every way we can."

The survey showed just 25 percent of people generally report crimes to police, but that drops to just 14 percent for bisexual people, and 23 percent for lesbian or gay people.

It also showed those victims are almost five times more likely to feel a crime is motivated by attitudes towards their sexual orientation than the national average.

The Ministry didn't have enough data to include transgender and other identities.

Charity not surprised

A charity that works with rainbow youth says it's unsurprising that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to be victims of crime.

Tabby Besley from InsideOUT told Morning Report there are many possible reasons for why lesbian, gay or bisexual plus people are victims.

"Our relationships are pretty much always invisible and so people in our communities - it's really hard to identify that what might be happening in our relationships is balanced because when we look outside of this world it's this very hetero-normative view of what that is."

Tabby Besley

LGBTQI relationships are invisible in our society, Tabby Besley says. Photo: supplied

She said their communities weren't modelled well in areas like the media and advertising.

Besley said they were often encountered discrimination and violence from society including from strangers in the street, in workplaces and from peers so it becomes normalised to them and it can impact their close relationships because they are not getting the support they need.

Many also had negative experiences with the police and while they were trying to make improvements, she did not believe the issue was being treated with the urgency it deserved.

She said police needed to reintroduce training on working with LGBTQI communities, especially those impacted by violence.

Where to get help

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94

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