Gay Men Left Vulnerable as LGBT Domestic Violence Organization Faces Closure

As most domestic violence services cater to women, Broken Rainbow has served as a lifeline to thousands of male victims.
A member of the London Gay Men's Choir during a performance in front of the Houses of Parliament in 2013. (Photo: Andrew Winning/Reuters)
Feb 6, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Because domestic violence is widely viewed as a women’s issue, federal funds are typically funneled to organizations that cater to female victims. But when that happens, some of the most marginalized communities are left with nowhere to turn in times of crisis.

Broken Rainbow, the U.K.’s only national LGBT domestic violence organization, can only afford to keep running for roughly seven more weeks as it waits to hear if it will receive government funding.

“LGBT charities are at the forefront of service cuts affecting the community’s most vulnerable people,” Jo Harvey Barringer, Broken Rainbow’s CEO, told The Guardian. “This needs to stop.”

The Manchester-based organization received its most recent round of funding last March, but it has not received a commitment from the government for support in the next fiscal year. It has faced an ongoing battle for financial aid.

Broken Rainbow has operated a telephone helpline and online chat services for the past 11 years, serving more than 42,000 people and saving thousands of lives in the LGBT community, according to its own figures.

Approximately one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to U.K. organization Life Without Abuse. Same-sex partners experience intimate partner violence at similar rate, with Broken Rainbow reporting the same figure for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

“When you look at domestic violence as a subject in this country, two women a week die at the hands of their male partners,” Harvey Barringer told The Guardian. “LGBT people die at the hands of their partners too, but when it’s reported in the press it’s much more sensationalized, or it’s not even recognized as domestic violence.”

As domestic violence shelters cater primarily to female victims, male victims have few places to turn. More than half of the people Broken Rainbow helps, directing them toward the limited services in their areas, are men. There are only 35 beds in domestic violence shelters for men throughout the entire U.K., according to The Guardian.

Transgender women and men experience higher rates of domestic violence than the rest of the LGBT community, with Broken Rainbow reporting that nearly 80 percent of trans people experience verbal or physical domestic abuse from family members or an intimate partner throughout their lives.

This high rate of abuse are supported by international studies, including U.S. reports. Researchers note that the rate is high in part because trans people are subjected to such increased rates of employment and housing discrimination, leaving them with fewer financial resources. Transgender women have reported discrimination within shelter systems, from being treated poorly to being turned away entirely owing to their gender identity.

But that’s not a problem at Broken Rainbow. “The thing I’m really proud of is that everyone you speak to in our service identifies as L, G , B, or T, so the elephant in the room is taken away,” Harvey Barringer told The Independent.

The charity will continue to operate its helpline and online services until the end of March, when funding runs out.