Loving Me is the only domestic and sexual abuse service in the United Kingdom specifically by and for transgender, non-binary and gender queer people. We asked them to tell us about the service they offer.
“When our founder, Amanda Elwen set up the Emily Davison Centre, a centre where multiple Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) services are based, the goal was to end violence against women and girls. While this still is at the heart of the centre, Amanda noticed that transgender and non-binary people were being repeatedly let down by services. Research found that 72% of transgender / non-binary people will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes *1. Though there are still a relatively small number of transgender and non-binary people in the United Kingdom, domestic abuse is still a massive issue that the community are faced with.
This is why Loving Me was founded. Loving Me is the only domestic and sexual abuse service in the United Kingdom, specifically by and for transgender, non-binary and gender queer people.
Loving Me offers 1-1 support and advocacy by a specialist team of qualified practitioners and are service user led. Although the service only opened its doors in March and is very new, the qualified practitioners have a deep and extensive knowledge of both the transgender community and domestic and sexual abuse, with some having worked in the sector for over 20 years. We are also working alongside the University of Central Lancashire to create a study which researches transgender and non-binary experiences of domestic abuse, as there is very little research into the topic.
Transgender and non-binary people face all of the issues that cisgender victims and survivors do, as well as specific nuances and barriers. We have found that the majority of our clients have a range of complex needs. Many have experienced familial abuse as a result of coming out as transgender or non-binary. This leaves them with nowhere to go and in vulnerable positions which perpetrators of domestic abuse seek out and target. We have experienced a large number of care leavers, who have been repeatedly let down by services over the years and many experiencing mental health conditions. It is so important that there is a service which completely understands these nuances.
When a client is referred to us, what we do next is completely dependent on what the victim wants, as we are entirely service user led. After assessing their risk using a trans friendly version of the DASH RIC, we can offer a refuge search for them if necessary or alternatively can offer safety planning/MARAC support for them to remain where they are (if appropriate). We provide check ins either over the phone or in person as regularly as the client needs, whether that’s daily or monthly.
During these calls, we apply for Discretionary Housing Payments, furniture grants, food parcels and liaise with other services to claim for things like injunctions or other court orders. We often sit with clients whilst they make reports to the police for emotional support and can ensure that all of the measures are taken to protect them when they go to court, advocating for things like screens and separate exits. Our main goal is to empower our service users to live a life free from abuse. Since opening our doors 8 months ago, we have directly supported 31 service users and demand for support is increasing as people become more aware of the service. We can joint work cases with other IDVAs across the country.
It is so important that ‘by and for’ services are available for all minority groups. For the trans community, it means that they don’t feel like they don’t have to explain themselves when they present at our service- whether that’s the fact that our male clients may need period products or the importance of our service users being able to collect their hormone medication from the pharmacy before they flee to us. It’s these levels of understanding that only by and for services can offer.
One of the biggest factors that we have struggled with during the Loving Me project has been finding refuge space for our clients. One service user, a transgender woman, came to us after being subjected to a vicious sexual assault by the service users of the men’s homeless hostel that she had been placed in, highlighting how important that the appropriate support is provided to victims and survivors of our particularly vulnerable community.
Loving Me’s immediate goal is to purchase a fully staffed refuge, solely for transgender and non-binary people to access shelter and a safe space, as this example shows just how important it is that all victims and survivors of domestic abuse are given the right support for them. Watch this space as news will soon follow! We currently have access to some local dispersed accommodation which they can use, but due to high demand, it isn’t a reliable means of accommodating their clients. We regularly have to call refuges across the country who are advertising spaces, to see if they will accept a client. However, we are sadly often met with a lack of knowledge of what transgender or non-binary means and asking inappropriate and invasive questions.
Some services worry about accepting transgender clients into their spaces as they feel there is an added element of risk attached. However, we are working closely with services who wish to be more inclusive to improve their provision for trans victims and survivors, and we have a lot to learn from each other. We ask that during these 16 days of Activism you think about what you can do to help the trans community. It could be as simple as reviewing your policy or even as small as asking your service users what name and pronouns they would prefer. We’ve found that these small acts have meant a lot to our service users.
Ultimately, we believe anyone who has experienced abuse deserves support and safety, regardless of their gender.
With thanks to Comic Relief, Ministry of Justice, Rank Foundation, Lancashire Police Crime Commissioners Office, Lancashire County Council.”
*1 Garthe et al., 2018