Tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support

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Switchboard Victoria is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer-based support service for LGBTIQA+ people and their friends, families and allies.

We’ve partnered with Switchboard to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support, assessment, safety planning and referral.


Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse, Intersex, Queer and Asexual (LGBTIQA+) People

People of all genders, sex and sexual orientations can experience family violence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, intersex, queer and asexual people can face additional risk factors and barriers to support.

These risk factors may include:

  • Isolation and losing community connections when they report family violence and risk of further harm by having to “out” themselves
  • Violence and homo/bi/transphobia from family of origin resulting in homelessness, particularly for young people
  • Trans and gender diverse people who rely on others for care and support due to age or disability having access to gender affirming care or hormones denied or controlled
  • Homophobia, transphobia and intersexphobia meaning that someone’s gender identity, intersex status or sexual orientation can be used to threaten or control (i.e. threatening to “out” someone)
  • Social stigma and discrimination due to HIV status
  • Using dating apps and technology to monitor location
  • Family violence can worsen LGBTIQA+ people’s mental health and lead to risk of suicide. Being LGBTIQA+ is not the cause of suicide; it is the violence, both interpersonal and systemic, that people face that leads to higher rates of suicidal distress and attempts.

These barriers may include:

  • Social pressure not to name or identify violence or abuse for fear it may contribute to homo/bi/transphobia
  • Current and historical discriminatory laws against people on the basis of sex, sexuality and gender identity (among other attributes), such as where it conflicts with religious beliefs, contributing to fears of discrimination from services
  • Distrust of the service system due to previous experiences of historical institutional and interpersonal abuse, discrimination or uneducated responses. This can result in LGBTIQA+ people only seeking support in crisis; fear, distrust and not reporting to Police; seeking support from community not the service system; and withholding gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex status from services.
  • Limited access to LGBTIQA+ inclusive and informed family violence services.
  • Limited crisis services and crisis accommodation for male, transgender and non-binary victim survivors.

Practice considerations

There are many things you can consider and put into practice when supporting victim survivors from LGBTIQA+ communities.


  • Acknowledge and validate each person’s unique experience and ask appropriate questions to ensure people feel comfortable and safe enough to share their story.
  • Don’t assume people’s relationship structure, context or positioning. Ask open questions to create a space where people can share more about their relationships and what they mean to them. Questions to explore relationships might include:
  • Does your partner live with you?
  • Do you have more than one partner?
  • How does your partner identify?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you share parenting with anyone?
  • Is there anything you feel is important for us to know about your relationship to help us support you better?
  • Remember LGBTIQA+ communities are not homogenous. There are differences in experiences across gender, sexuality and relationships, cultures, faiths, disabilities and if a person is Aboriginal or from Torres Strait Islands. Remember that due to intersecting oppressions and marginalisation it may take time to develop a clear picture of the narrative. Consider whether racism or ablism is being used to coerce, control or cause harm.
  • Name the person’s experience as family violence. LGBTIQA+ people may not see themselves in family violence narratives. Provide examples of where you can hear abuse, power and control. This can assist with supporting someone to identify their own risks, normalise their experiences and make decisions about their safety.
  • “We understand family violence as a pattern of behaviour, coercion, and control. We understand that family violence can look all different ways in relationships, what I am hearing X, Y, Z.”
  • “Family violence is often thought about in heterosexual relationships between straight people in couples, we understand that family violence can exist in many forms and does not rely on those stereotypes.”
  • “Based on what you have told me, I can hear a pattern of behaviour that has made you feel intimidated, controlled, and scared. What you are describing to me is family violence.”
  • Listen out for financial, emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse and ways that power, coercion and control are enacted. Reflect on and ask questions about risk factors. Some additional factors to listen out for include:
  • Is there isolation from community? People may be, or have a history of isolation from family. People might be connected to subcultural groups that play an important part of support networks and belonging i.e a ‘chosen family’ network.
  • Is there concealment within the relationship? Have people had to hide their relationships and this may create risk for isolation.
  • Is there pressure to do or be certain ways reflecting gender presentation, expression or sexuality? Does this make this person uncomfortable?
  • Are there parts of this person’s identity/expression that are being controlled or made to supress in their relationship/s?
  • Are there ways that parenting status/biological ties are influencing decision making about child-care?
  • Safety planning and support for LGBTIQA+ people may mean you need to be creative, flexible and a strong advocate for the people trying to access support. Not all people within LGBTIQA+ communities will be able to access support from mainstream family violence services. They might need guidance for how to access and advocate for themselves, or they might need you to act as a strong ally to support them to find a service that is appropriate. Considerations for safety planning or further service engagement include:
  • Are there referral pathways that feel safe for them to access?
  • Be mindful of how much information you are sharing with services and ensuring to ask for consent when disclosing identity factors such as gender, sexuality, pronouns, what name they would like to be referred to as
  • How might you advocate for this person to receive access from particular services?
  • How can your service and support assist with maintaining safety?
  • What ways can you advocate for this person to get support from your service if they don’t qualify on the basis of gender or sexuality?

Check throughout the conversation if it is ok to ask these questions and explain why you need to ask the questions. This is important to build trust and ensure the person has agency.

Tools and resources

Switchboard Victoria is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer-based support service for LGBTIQA+ people and their friends, families and allies.

We’ve partnered with Switchboard to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support, assessment, safety planning and referral.

Download the tip sheet here.

Further reading and resources:

Rainbow Door

Rainbow Door is a specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their friends and family. Rainbow Door is available for secondary consultation for practitioners responding to family violence.

Phone: 1800 729 367
Text: 0480 017 246
Email: support@rainbowdoor.org.au

Rainbow Tick

Supporting organisations to make their services more inclusive of LGBTQIA+ clients- https://www.rainbowhealthvic.org.au/rainbow-tick

Queer Family Violence Sector Network

A network and resource for professionals working in the family violence sector https://www.rainbowhealthvic.org.au/projects


Free help for LGBTIQA+ people in Victoria with regards to their legal problems including discrimination, family violence, change of name issues and more.


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