5th March 2018
Birmingham LGBT is an award winning charity delivering services to the LGBT community in Birmingham. The organisation has grown significantly since its inception and in January 2013, Birmingham LGBT opened the first LGBT Health and Wellbeing centre in England and Wales. The centre is fully accessible and runs a number of services including sexual health, wellbeing, older people's services and a specialist LGBT Idva service.
The LGBT Idva service has been running for several years now and helps to support anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender who is experiencing abuse from intimate partners, ex partners or family members. They also offer support around forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence.
Sajida Bandali is a senior LGBT Idva at Birmingham LGBT.
No time for Monday blues. As I enter the office I receive a call from one of my new clients who is distressed. She identifies as a trans woman and has just fled to the UK. She fled from her country of origin facing persecution from her family and community. Her crime? Not being born female. Her punishment? Violence in the name of honour.
My client made an asylum application and has been housed by G4S. Last night she experienced a transphobic hate crime from a fellow housemate. She is utterly disappointed as although she can finally be free to live as a trans woman in the UK, she has experienced abuse in the first week of her stay. She had been yearning to finally be addressed as her preferred pronoun; she. To finally openly dress the way she wants, without fear of harassment and abuse. Sadly, high numbers of transgender people still experience hate crime, despite increases in public awareness and legal advancement in LGBT rights.
I make arrangements to transfer my client into alternative accommodation and liaise with the police to report the hate crime. I also book an appointment for her to receive support from my colleague who is a Trans outreach worker.
I then check for any new referrals that have come in over the weekend and spend the rest of the day completing case work.
This morning I am out of the office promoting our service at a health event.
As I arrive back at the office, my client is waiting at reception for his appointment. He’s an elderly gay man whose much younger male partner is financially and physically abusive.
My client is vulnerable with a number of health problems. He has very little means to support himself, as his state pension is used by his partner to fund a drugs habit. My client was part of the generation where being in a relationship with another man was a criminal offence. He is very sceptical of services and is apprehensive about reporting incidents of abuse to the police due to past homophobia.
Barriers can deter all victims of domestic and sexual abuse from seeking help. For LGBT victims, there are additional barriers. The Birmingham LGBT Centre is therefore a safe space for him to make disclosures and receive support. He is very isolated which adds to his dependency on his relationship. In his eyes, endurance is better than isolation. After thorough safety planning today, I discuss community groups for older LGBT people, to reduce his isolation.
Our midweek client is being seen at a GP surgery to preserve anonymity. The client is a young woman who belongs to a prominent family in a tight knit religious community. The closet remains tightly shut on her lesbian identity, for she fears shaming her community.
Hiding her sexuality has been difficult and it is having a detrimental effect on her mental health. She has been signed off work due to poor mental health after being ‘outed’ by her line manager. Sadly, she recently took an overdose.
Her siblings were each taken abroad and forced into marriage. Consequently, we are concerned she may also be at risk of forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence. After safety planning, we arrange safe housing for this client and her partner. Now that she is also engaging with mental health services, we are hoping her road to recovery is in hand.
Wednesday ends with an unexpected international call from a former client. We learn that he resumed the relationship with his abusive partner and has moved abroad. We reiterate safety planning and provide details of getting support abroad.
Today we have our weekly nurse-led sexual health clinic. The clinic offers services such as confidential testing and treatment for STI’s, HIV rapid testing and advice and support.
One of the workers has informed us that a client has disclosed domestic abuse. He reveals he left his unhappy heterosexual marriage and came out as a gay man. He was ostracised because of his sexual orientation and was prevented from seeing his children. Due to feeling isolated, he became heavily involved in the ‘chemsex’ scene. Participants at chemsex parties use drugs such as Mkat, crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB during sexual encounters. This can be risky as sometimes protection is not used and injecting equipment and paraphernalia may be shared during intravenous drug use. It is also concerning as people in coercive relationships may be pressured or threatened into participating.
The client disclosed that he contracted HIV during this time in his life and has struggled to manage his condition due to poor mental health and chaotic relationships with men. After safety planning and offering the relevant support, he is referred to our specialist chemsex worker and local drugs service. Due to the client’s financial circumstances, the rest of the day is spent applying for the very few remaining financial grants.
It’s the end of the week, but still very busy. I am helping out on reception and the Centre is bustling! Many LGBT people are estranged from their family of origin, or have to hide their identity from them. Therefore, the LGBT community is their family. Today we have a clinic on for people who identify as transgender, a social group for LGBT asylum seekers and a yoga class.
One of our Idvas is at the Crown Court today supporting a young client for a GBH trial. This is his first same sex relationship. His partner would frequently make him question his sexual identity and reinforced that no one would believe him if he reported the abuse, and that he would experience homophobia through the court process.
Leading up to the trial, we have worked with him to understand the dynamics of power and control using an LGBT adapted version of the Duluth power and control wheel. After a lot of reassurance and confidence building, he has decided to give evidence today.
The close of play brings in a vulnerable woman cradling a crying baby. She has disclosed abuse from her female partner and requires respite. It is a race against the clock but we manage to contact relevant services and find her safe accommodation. We book her a taxi reassured that she can be safe over the weekend.
The Idva cape is then hung up, awaiting duty for the week to come.
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