2 min

The double stigma of sexual diversity and assault

Addressing violence in the lesbian community

BARRIER ELIMINATION PROJECT. There is concern about the shortage of appropriate services for victims and perpetrators of same-sex partner abuse. Credit: Jim Stewart

An Ottawa organization is taking steps to try to reduce the increase in domestic violence in the lesbian community.

“As with hate crimes, there is now an increase in service calls from victims of same-sex partner abuse,” says Carroll Holland, the coordinator of the Barrier Elimination Plan.

“The increase is significant and doubtless reflects that others are working on this issue as well,” says Holland. “There is concern about the shortage of appropriate services for victims and perpetrators of same-sex partner abuse. Existing treatment programs for perpetrators, for instance, are for heterosexual males only.

“BEP is to be used as a template. It’s a pioneer in terms of community in Ontario, taking a systemic approach to the problem. It’s about expanding the topic, addressing what organizations and people do, and including the various needs. Dealing with prejudice out of bias and a lack of knowledge form the basis of BEP’s role. BEP introduces the needs and the learning.”

There are a number of people active in justice, victims’ services and GLBT organizations working on the BEP committee, which was originally formed in 1995 [See sidebar on page 9 for history]. Approximately 40 service providers are involved in all. The organizations range from Interval House to Pink Triangle Services to the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and various health and community services.

“Community networking is very important to the success of this project,” says Holland. “There are many examples of committed efforts in our region to reduce barriers and improve access to services.”

The BEP works to help such groups as the Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments and the Regional Coordinating Committee to End Violence Against Women with their work.

BEP gives them tools and standards that are clear so that they can step in, get support and clarity. If policies are needed, BEP has sample policies and a toolkit. BEP’s action plan provides service providers with sample objectives, strategies and activities, all with associated time lines and results.

“If everything we provided were implemented, we’d be so far ahead,” says Holland.

Currently, BEP is working on a project with PTS and Catholic Family Services to address the needs of gay victims of partner abuse.

BEP’s funding comes from the federal government’s Status of Women Office and therefore focuses on women and lesbians. But Holland says the work the organization is doing will also prove helpful to members of other groups in similar situations.

“Lesbian partner abuse was the issue that qualified us for involvement with the initial coordination project, but the successful outcomes benefit gay men as well.

“You start with the most pressing situation,” says Holland. “A murder of a gay man by another gay man started the ‘You’re Not Alone’ campaign. Certain things are considered essential. It is not saying the others aren’t important. More people need to get involved, come forward and write funding proposals. The transgender issue – we can’t leave it out. Some needs may be particular to each group, but the overriding service need is universal.”

* To contact the Barrier Elimination Project, call Carroll Holland at 761–1761.

If you’re experiencing partner assault and you need to talk in complete confidence, call the Liaison Committee at 236-1222, x.5867or the Victim’s Crisis Section at 236-1222 (push 0 then ask for on-call staff).