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Ben Bjarnesen

What inspired you to become involved with The Pinnacle Foundation?

Growing up I didn’t have any visible LGBTIQ+ role models or mentors in the workplace or the community.  I love that The Pinnacle Foundation provides the opportunity to help mentor our LGBTIQ+ students and assist them in achieving their goals and providing a pathway for them to succeed. Not only does The Pinnacle Foundation provide financial support, which is important, but the community and mentor aspect is vital for our scholars to succeed and become leaders in their fields.

Tell us about your work and your involvement with the LGBTIQ+ community?

I have many roles within the community covering LGBTIQ+ community safety and wellbeing, LGBTIQ+ Domestic Violence (DV) and welfare/support of LGBTIQ+ police officers and staff in the Queensland (QLD) Police. Some of these roles include:

  • Regional Coordinator, Qld Police LGBTIQ+ Liaison Officer Program (community)
  • Committee Member, Qld Police LGBTIQ+ Support Network (police officers and staff)
  • Vice-Chair, Qld Police Union of Employees, Inclusion and Diversity Committee
  • Founder, LGBTIQ+ Domestic Violence Awareness Day
  • Committee Member, The Pinnacle Foundation
  • Board of Directors, DVConnect
  • Consultant, Griffith University, MATE Bystander Program
  • Training Facilitator, Qld Council for LGBTIQ+ Health
  • Member, Qld Government LGBTIQ+ Roundtable

One initiative that I am very proud to be the founder of is the LGBTIQ+ Domestic Violence Awareness Day. The numbers of domestic violence cases in our community are high, yet underreported. It’s so important that people from LGBTIQ+ communities know that help is available for them, that they don’t have to live with abuse and that everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, deserves to live a life free from violence and abuse. For more information on LBGTIQ+ Domestic Violence Awareness Day (28th May) and how you can get involved, go to:

https://www.lgbtidvawarenessday.com/
https://instagram.com/lgbti.dv.awareness.day?igshid=agt4y2i07qlh

Tell us about Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence within the LGBTIQ+ community and what is the problem?

Many people in LGBTIQ+ communities may not identify themselves as being in a domestic violence relationship, as domestic violence is most often seen as a problem of heterosexual relationships with men abusing women. LGBTIQ+ people are less likely to see themselves as experiencing abuse or being an abuser if they cannot identify with the portrayed characteristics of domestic violence within the public eye, and therefore may also believe that there is no support available to them. There is often a belief that they won’t be taken seriously or believed by police or will not be treated appropriately or respectfully.  Some people may also believe that domestic violence is only physical violence, when it is in fact a lot more.  It can be psychological, verbal, emotional, financial, social, cultural, stalking, digital or sexual.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges for the LGBTIQ+ community?

When it comes to domestic and family violence, I would have to say the biggest challenge would be access to appropriate support services.  Domestic violence operates under a very gendered framework which doesn’t necessarily work for LGBTIQ+ communities.  Things like crisis accommodation, perpetrator behavioural change programs, court safe rooms are all designed to protect women who have had violence or abuse perpetrated against them by a man.  In Queensland there are no perpetrator programs or victim/survivor groups for LGBTIQ+ communities and that is the case for most of Australia. When it comes to housing, it is only available for women.  Safe rooms in courts only allow women to enter them, which mean that female perpetrators can have access female victims in the courts, and male victims are forced to sit outside in the general waiting room with the perpetrator rather than being able to access a safe space, free from intimidation, threats or harm whilst they wait for their matter to be heard by the court. (e.g. Domestic Violence Order Application or AVO application)

What can we be doing as a community to improve and health and safety of LGBTIQ+ people?

We must realise that only by working together can we end the scourge of domestic and family violence in our communities.  We all have a responsibility to do something.  We cannot sit back and expect someone else to do something about it.  We must all be active bystanders.  Ask yourself, what can I do as an individual, what can be done in my workplace, what can me and my friends do?  Make yourself familiar with what the signs of an abusive relationship are.   Look into what you can do as a bystander.  That way you can recognise signs of domestic and family violence and will be armed with the knowledge of what you can do should you identify someone in an abusive relationship.

What resources or supports do you recommend? (can be for DV, or health in general, etc)

Qlife (National LGBTIQ+ support and referral)

1800 RESPECT (National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service)

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