Seattle is at the forefront of a national movement to recognize and protect abuse victims who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ).
The locally based Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse will be awarded federal funds to establish a National LGBTQ Domestic Violence Institute. Seattle is a fitting place because the network has helped LGBTQ victims since 1987.
The first-of-its-kind learning center will be ground zero for service providers, programs and policy makers looking to better prevent and respond to the LGBTQ community’s specific needs.
A 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study exposed alarming trends:
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• Lesbian women and gay men experienced abuse at equal or higher rates than heterosexual people.
• About 44 percent of lesbians, 26 percent of gay men, 61 percent of bisexual women and 37 percent of bisexual men have been victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by a partner.
These crimes often go unreported because of a lack of access to social services, discrimination by crisis responders and ambiguous laws.
In February, Congress rightly voted to renew the Violence Against Women Act and expanded the 19-year-old federal program to include coverage of LGBTQ victims. Starting an institute dedicated to this group is a critical step toward curbing recent surges in partner violence and homicide.
The NW Network is uniquely qualified to lead the effort because of its pioneering efforts in the field of assessing culturally appropriate responses for LGBTQ abuse victims and their abusers.
Executive Director Connie Burk — herself a survivor of domestic violence — says the institute will focus especially on the disproportionately high crime rates against LGBTQ people of color, immigrants and youth.
This worthy endeavor means victims who once felt sidelined stand a chance of being heard.
Lives will be saved in Seattle and beyond.