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BBC TV's Eastenders tackles the invisible subject of LGBT Domestic Violence

‘“When two women fight isn’t it just a cat fight?” is a common question we are faced with when in the training room’ said Jo Harvey Barringer Managing Director of Broken Rainbow UK 

The reality is that there is nothing blasé about violence in a relationship and referring to it this way minimises the impact it has and is one reason why LGBT domestic violence remains a hidden issue. 

As an organisation we at Broken Rainbow were really excited to advise on the Tosh & Tina storyline, and saw it as a great opportunity to get the subject of LGBT domestic violence in to the public domain. It was really important that the story portrayed the complexities of an abusive relationship and how often an individual incident is not the whole story about the relationship; that we need to know what the build up was to the incident, what the motives are of each partner and what the impact is on each partner so that we can begin to - hopefully - get people thinking about how power is the key to understanding whether or not a relationship is, or behaviours are, abusive.

In the episode shown on October 28th, where Tina slapped Tosh, clearly that wasn’t ok, but when put into context she was responding to yet another verbally abusive incident involving accusations and the slap was a ‘stop it!’ an expression of frustration with and/or retaliation to Tosh’s abuse. However the violent punch Tosh responded with was calculated to put Tina in her place and to punish Tina for challenging Tosh’s dominance in the relationship; a reminder that Tosh was in control and held all the power. 

We were very conscious that the storyline needed to portray the very real experiences our service users tell us about and though there are a number of similarities to women experiencing abuse in heterosexual relationships, the ways they can all experience psychological, sexual, physical and financial violence and abuse; the one main issue that differs is the lack of support services available to LGBT people survivors or perpetrators. Another huge barrier is having to “out” yourself in order to report the incident. If you then add that services do create problems by classing domestic violence as common assault or mistaking who the primary perpetrator is this can often result in a whole new layer of issues and on occasions a secondary victimisation of the survivor.

Representation of our stories on mainstream television can only help raise awareness not just for service providers but also from LGBT people affected by domestic violence who may recognise themselves or aspects of their partner in this storyline. The notion that behaviour like this isn't ok and that they aren't alone can be a powerful enabler to safety in itself. 

Our patriarchal society is much more attuned to the idea of men being violent towards women or even to one another and therefore the idea of one women being abusive towards another is much more difficult to accept. But it can and does happen. If this was happening to somebody you knew how would you respond? It’s worth thinking about because the evidence suggests that lesbians are more likely to speak to friends about this than report it to any formal agency like the police. 

Domestic violence is a very serious problem in the UK affecting individuals in every community regardless of ‘race’ or ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender, educational background and economic status. 

You can find out more about the work Broken Rainbow UK does to support LGBT victims and perpetrators and how you can access help here on our website.

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