Domestic abuse service fears men and LGBT community are suffering in silence

Fearless service manager Aaron Slater, who oversees the Motherwell project, says the uptake of their service in Lanarkshire is low compared to Scotland’s large cities.

The boss of a Motherwell-based domestic abuse service fears men and members of the LGBT+ community living in rural Lanarkshire are suffering in silence at the hands of abusive partners.

The group Fearless, which provides one-to-one support for any man and anyone from the LGBT+ community, including lesbian and bisexual women, gay and bisexual men, trans men and women, and gender non-binary people, is taking steps to reach out to people in remote areas of Lanarkshire who are in a relationship where they experience physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse.

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour that is controlling or coercive and can include threats and insults.

The intended impact of domestic abuse it control.

Fearless, which operates a service across 19 local authority areas in Scotland, was established in Motherwell two and a half years ago.

Eight people in Lanarkshire who are experiencing domestic abuse are currently receiving one-to-one support from a dedicated Fearless case worker.

Four of them are men in relationships with women, two of them are men in the LGBT+ community and two are LGBT women.

Fearless service manager Aaron Slater, who oversees the Motherwell project, says the uptake of their service in Lanarkshire is low compared to Scotland’s large cities in which they are supporting up to 30 people – mainly men in mixed sex relationships.

And because he fears this is due to much of the Lanarkshire population living in isolated rural areas where there are additional barriers to support, he and his team are targeting villages and remote areas with the message that Fearless will respond to victims’ calls for help with non-judgmental support based on their needs and goals.

Some people who are experiencing abuse are in relationships that their family and friends don’t know about – which makes seeking help even harder.

A Fearless worker is visiting rural areas across Lanarkshire in a bid to raise awareness of the service through community hubs and housing offices.

Aaron explained: “You may feel that you have no autonomy or freedom, or that everything you do is dictated by your partner. You may feel like you are walking on eggshells, afraid of what your partner might do next or how they might respond to you.

“You may feel isolated from your friends and family. You may have experienced abuse or insults directed at you because of your identity and who you are.

“Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. Although men’s violence against women is more prevalent, domestic abuse exists in every kind of relationship, and every person deserves support to help them overcome these experiences. This is why Fearless was created.

“Fearless is a gender-informed service, recognising that the needs of men, and the needs of LGBT people can be different from those women in heterosexual relationships.”

Service manager Aaron says men and people in the LGBT community are less likely to identify with domestic abuse or recognise it, and there are few community-based support services available for people in these groups.

If a person in the LGBT community has not “come out” to family and friends or has had a negative experience of doing so, they can have feelings of isolation.

Some men, he says, have had poor experiences of mainstream services which makes it less likely for them to approach Fearless for help.

And, like all domestic abuse survivors, they fear that they won’t be believed.

Fearless workers can offer a range of support including safety planning, emotional help, advocacy, mentoring, and practical support with housing, employment, education and health, and assistance to access appropriate benefits.

Fearless will carry out a risk assessment to help the victim and the caseworker understand the different risks they are experiencing and how to build an effective safety plan to address these risks.

Aaron, whose service is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and is a partnership service between Sacro, Shakti Women’s Aid, Respect and LGBT Youth Scotland, added: “There’s also the perception that men should be strong and not show emotion – big boys don’t cry. For a man to reach out and say ‘I think I am being abused by my partner’ is a big thing to overcome.”