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Josh Munro: Domestic Violence Advisor

Josh Munro is a trained Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) with a special focus on supporting gender variant individuals. He is also the editor of Break the Silence: a support guide for male victims of domestic abuse.

 

Many trans people have experienced hate from strangers, just for being different. Whether this is blatant bigotry from a troll online, a negative comment from someone on the street, or something a little more insidious – a furtive glance, a snigger, a whisper – all of these aggressions, no matter how micro, can be hurtful.

But the prejudice and dangers faced by members of the trans community don’t necessarily stop when they close the door. While there is limited research on how many trans people have experienced domestic abuse in the UK, a report by The Scottish Transgender Alliance (https://www.scottishtrans.org) indicates that it could be as high as 80%.

The Government has acknowledged that lockdown measures put in place as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak may leave the victims of domestic abuse feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed. Sometimes knowing what your options are can help you to make a positive decision – whatever form that may take.

Before we go into strategies, it is important to understand what we mean by domestic abuse. Abuse may be physical (punching kicking), emotional (dead naming, not allowing you to see family or friends, withholding medication), psychological (not allowing you to express your gender identity, stalking, monitoring your phone/computer/social media), financial (restricting your income, forcing you to live on an allowance) and sexual abuse (forcing intercourse, forcing acts that make you uncomfortable, exploring kinks without your consent or prior knowledge).

It’s your choice whether you remain in or leave the relationship. Services are available that can and will support your choices and advise in the best way possible.

 

Here is some guidance on what to do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship.

 

Don’t go it alone
When speaking to your local domestic abuse service, whether you were referred by your GP or you make direct contact, they will conduct a Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment (DASH) risk assessment. This will help them to gain a more thorough understanding of your situation and your partner, as well as the coping mechanisms you have developed to stay safe.

 

Knowledge is power
Some of the questions you will be asked will be very personal in nature. Please answer them to the best of your ability. The more information you are able to share about your individual situation the better the support will be.

 

Have a plan
If you are contemplating leaving the relationship, pack a bag containing spare clothes (a few days’ worth so it’s easy to hide). Include toiletries, medicines and your passport, recent bill statements as proof of address, and cash. If access to important documents is difficult, take photographs and send them to a friend. Think about where you will go – friends? Family? If more suitable, contact a refuge to see if they can offer you a safe space. Ask a friend to collect your bag under the guise they are dropping off supplies or you are returning previously borrowed clothes.

 

Keep in regular contact 
Make sure you check in regularly with friends and family. Agree on certain safeguarding measures such as code phrases that mean: ‘my partner is here I need to end the call, check on me in half an hour’ and in extreme cases: ‘I’m scared please call the police’. It is also advisable to set something similar up with a neighbour, if it is safe and you trust them.

 

See what help is available through work
Some companies have a domestic abuse protocol. This may include extra security measures being implemented when you are back at work, so that your partner cannot gain access to see you. If you prefer, this discussion can be done in private with your HR department.

 

Stick to your normal routine
Whatever your plans for the future, try to stick to your normal routines to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Keep an eye on any changes in behaviour on the part of the perpetrator of the abuse. Tensions may well be heightened during quarantine.

 

Find a safe space
If you feel vulnerable, find a safe area in the home which can buy you time while you get help. If your partner becomes violent, try to avoid the kitchen, garage or anywhere that might have potential weapons.

 

Keep a record
BrightSky is an app which allows you to record any incidents and store images/video/audio. It is disguised to look like a weather app.

An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. In 2018, 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, according to data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK.

 

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by domestic abuse or violence, these organisations may be able to help:

 

            If you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999 – Press ’55’ If you are unable to speak.

 

Important note 
Each individual’s situation is different. A domestic abuse professional will conduct a risk assessment specific to your case. Please seek this information to enable you to work out the best strategies for your situation.

 

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