As a domestic violence (DV) survivor, 48-year-old Bryan is angry about the way police deal with DV incidents in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ) community and is calling for increased training and awareness.
“It’s just the prejudice from some of them,” Bryan says, “I have come up against certain police who were plainly homophobic and they basically just didn’t want to attend because they thought it was a couple of gays in the suburbs having an argument.
“I’m worried that there’s people in my situation who are gay [and] who are going through … domestic violence and they’re too frightened to come out and report it because they fear that they will be treated with homophobia,” he says.
According to Bryan, he endured a period of two years when his former long-term partner became increasingly violent and abusive.
“He’d bash holes in the wall and then he would start throwing things,” Bryan says, and “he would physically punch me.”
“He just kept saying things like: ‘You’re not worthwhile. You’re nothing. You’re not even a good actor’,” Bryan recalls.
As the situation escalated, Bryan would sometimes be forced to call the police multiple times a week. Although he had some positive experiences with law enforcement, this wasn’t always the case.
“Because there aren’t Gay and Lesbian Police Liaison Officers (GLLOs) in local area commands, you just get anybody who in on duty and they aren’t trained to deal with people who have gay issues and they may well be prejudiced.
“I’m also concerned that when breaches of an AVO take place, they may not be followed up as readily by police if you are a gay couple,” he says.
Furthermore, Bryan says he felt unable to reach out for help from domestic violence support services: “I’ve been given leaflets, I’ve been given booklets but it all focuses on women … it doesn’t mention men.”
According to a 2015 publication by Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS): “People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or queer … experience intimate partner violence at similar rates as those who identify as heterosexual.”
Other research backs up the notion that LGBTIQ people are “just as likely as women in the general population to experience DFV [domestic and family violence]” but are less likely to find support services they need.
Sarah Lambert, the Director of NSW-based LGBTI health promotion organisation ACON, is unsurprised by Bryan’s experience.
“It is sadly not uncommon for DFV within same sex couples to (be) minimised or not treated with the same level of concern as within heterosexual relationships.”
She describes the mistrust of police by some members of the LGBTIQ community as both “well documented” and “a reality.”
However Ms Lambert says it’s not all bad news. She cites numerous positive steps NSW Police are taking towards “to be more inclusive and understanding of LGBTIQ communities,” and praises the “ … the ongoing work of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Office.”
“Rome was not built in a day and this is an ongoing issue that we need to continue to work on,” she added.
For Bryan, his dealings with police made an already harrowing set of circumstances worse.
On December 17, 2014 a NSW Magistrates Court convicted Bryan’s former partner of 22 years, Matthew McCarthy, 51, of both assault occasioning actual bodily harm and damaging property.
(Just to be clear, Bryan praises the two police officers who attended this particular incident, describing them as “caring” and “professional”).
A police report written the month prior to the conviction explains in detail what happened. According to the document, Bryan was on the phone to a friend one evening when McCarthy started shouting: “Stop telling f***** lies.”
Bryan’s then-partner had been drinking. He followed Bryan around the house, throwing household items — like vases — at him.
McCarthy smashed Bryan’s laptop. Although Bryan tried to hide in the bedroom, his former partner forced his way through the door causing Bryan to smash his head on the bed.
McCarthy then grabbed the mobile phone from Bryan and, the police report states, “hit the victim in the right eye.”
Bryan then fell back against the door and to the ground.
“Police spoke with the victim and saw that he had a bloodied nose, redness and bruising to his right eye, blood on his forehead. He had a ripped white T-shirt which had blood on it,” the report states.
Reflecting right back to how the relationship started, Bryan says, “There were warning signs that I just didn’t take on-board.”
From the minute Bryan met Matthew McCarthy in November 1993, it was “pretty full on.”
“I wasn’t looking for a relationship at that stage. I had just moved out of home [and] was enjoying my freedom. But he was very persistent and he would just turn up out of the blue turn up on my doorstep,” Bryan recalls.
Sometimes Bryan, feeling overwhelmed, wouldn’t answer the door to Matthew.
“At that stage I was a bit spooked out by him,” he continues.
At the time, Bryan says, “it did freak me out, but I thought, ‘Oh, he really does love me. He really does want me’.”
Within a few weeks of meeting, Matthew moved into Bryan’s apartment.
“What attracted me to him was that he was very open and very charming,” Bryan says, “basically I felt that I could say anything to him.”
“We were interested in the same TV shows. We were interested in Australian politics. We were interested in bushwalking, tennis, music. He had a really good sense of humour and he was intelligent,” Bryan remembers.
All theses years later, things look very different.
During a number of lengthy conversations, Bryan becomes emotional as he details how his long-term partnership gradually turned into a violent nightmare.
Since Matthew’s conviction, Bryan says he’s found himself increasingly isolated: “I felt I had nobody.”
“On the evening when he bashed me, and he got arrested, I never heard from anybody. My phone was suddenly quiet,” he continues, “The depression and PTSD has set in. I’m on antidepressants and I’ve been suicidal both during the domestic violence and since his conviction. I’m getting psychological and psychiatric help.”
A confidential written psychological assessment of Bryan viewed by news.com.au details the significant and ongoing impacts of the DV on his mental health, including self-reported symptoms including: tearfulness, chronic anxiety and depression, panic attacks and nightmares.
The way Bryan sees it, his acting career has also been heavily impacted by the violence he’s endured and the fraught relationship breakup that followed.
Until a few years ago, he lived part of the time in the US and part of the time in Australia. His most recent film was a sci-fi psychological thriller shot in Los Angeles (LA) called Omniscient.
In November last year he was set to go back to LA to film the pilot for a new reality show in but due to legal proceedings, it never happened.
“My career has been taken away from me, and I’ve been stripped off of something that used to be my life,” he says.
In response to detailed questions from news.com.au about Bryan’s claims, the NSW Police Media Unit sent the following statement: “NSW Police treats matters of domestic and family violence extremely seriously, regardless of people’s sexuality or gender.
“Since 2009, all recruits have received training on LGBTI issues at the Police Academy at Goulburn. Once the officer gets stationed, this training is regular and ongoing.”
The email goes on to say there are now more than 200 Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers across NSW who deal with “numerous issues including bias crimes [and] domestic violence.”
You can find resources and information about abuse in LGBTIQ relationships on the Say It Out Loud website.
If you are in the LGBTIQ community and need support dealing with police, you can also call ACON on 1800 063 060 (support service are available for Sydney, the Hunter Region and Northern Rivers.)
If you or someone you love is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.
This article was written by Ginger Gorman and has been copied from here.