LGBTI DV Awareness Day launches 28 May 2020

DEFGLIS Treasurer Don Robertson discusses active bystander behaviour and support for domestic & family violence victims – along with the launch of LGBTI DV Awareness Day with DVConnect Director Ben Bjarnesen

DEFGLIS Vice-president Joe Monteith and I caught up with Ben Bjarnesen, a Queensland Police Officer, a Director of DVConnect, and the person behind the establishment of the inaugural LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day, to be held on Thursday, 28 May 2020.

Recent studies have demonstrated that up to 62% of LGBTI people have experienced DV in their relationships, yet awareness of the issue and reporting rates are still incredibly low, with a study finding only 6% of victims had reported incidents of DV to Police. Many victims of DV in LGBTI relationships feel invisible. They feel that they won’t be supported, and that no one will believe them.

With these high levels of domestic violence being experienced within LGBTI relationships and seriously low levels of reporting, Australia’s first LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day is aiming to turn the tables.

As part of National Domestic Violence Prevention Month, the team behind the initiative will  launch the day with the #ImHereForYou campaign.

The objectives are to:

  • Raise awareness of domestic violence within LGBTI communities
  • Remember LGBTI victims of domestic violence who have lost their lives
  • Recognise LGBTI survivors
  • Support those LGBTI people currently in an abusive relationship.

DEFGLIS interview with Ben Bjarnesen

Please introduce yourself to our members with your background and your path into the police?

I’m originally from Toowoomba, and I always wanted to join the Police. I did school work experience at Goondiwindi Police Station when my family was living out there.  I went into Agri-business for a while but then decided to join the Police as I liked the variety of jobs and being able to work with the community.  When I joined the Police I was in the closet and hid my sexuality.  I was forced to come out in the Police about 2 years later because of some threats of violence that had been made against me by some locals in the small rural town I was living in who had discovered that I was gay.  Not long after that I became LGBTI liaison officer, which was a volunteer role on top of my regular duties, and began working to enhance the way in which Police interact and work with LGBTI communities.

What is your role within DVConnect and how did this come about?

I am on the board of directors for DVConnect.  I was approached by the chair to join the board due to the extensive work that I had been doing with DV in LGBTIQ+ communities.

Tell me about domestic violence and intimate partner violence within the DSSG community and what is the problem?

Many people in LGBTIQ+ communities may not identify themselves as being in a DV relationship, as DV 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 DV 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 DSSG community?

When it comes to domestic & family violence, I would have to say the biggest challenge would be access to appropriate support services.  DV operates under a very gendered framework which doesn’t necessarily work for LGBTI communities.  Things like crisis accommodation, perpetrator behavioural change programs, court safe rooms are all designed to protect women who have violence or abuse perpetrated against them by men.  In Queensland there are no perpetrator programs or victim/survivor groups for LGBTI 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. DV Order Application or AVO application).

What recommendations do you have for DSSG community members wanting to join the police?

If you’re interested in joining then get in touch with Police Recruiting and look into what the requirements are.  Policing is an exciting and rewarding career.  It’s an incredibly diverse organisation and everyone is welcome to apply no matter what your sexuality or gender identity is.

Who are some of your role models and why?

I would have to say Superintendent David Tucker from Queensland Police. He has shown me what a true leader is like. He is selfless, inspirational, always empowering people to do their best, and has this incredible ability to make his staff feel valued.  His passion to make a difference and do the right thing for his staff as well as LGBTIQ+ communities is an absolute inspiration.  He is a remarkable mentor and I wouldn’t be the Police officer that I am today without his guidance and support.

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?

Qlife (LGBTI support and referral)

Another Closet

Say it Out Loud

And of course DVConnect for anyone in Queensland experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault.


How you can get involved

To get involved, the team at encourage supporters to take a video or take a photo and write a few words using the hashtag #ImHereForYou, conveying messages of hope to LGBTIQ+ victims and survivors of DV and post it to your social media. Don’t forget to follow and tag in your post @LGBTI.DV.Awareness.Day. Alternatively you can email

Here are some examples posts:

#ImHereForYou to help stamp out LGBTI domestic violence. Because everyone deserves a life free from violence and abuse.

#ImHereForYou and I will be an active LGBTI ally in the workplace.

#ImHereForYou if you need support or someone to talk to.

The team have also put together some resources that you can post, including:

  • A rainbow ribbon to wear on 28 May
  • A poster to display in your workplace or to take photos with to share on social media on 28 May
  • Online promotional posters that you can download, and an email footer for use in May.

The day is supported by DVConnect and the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health, and is funded by the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, through the 2020 Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month Grant.

Images courtesy of Ben Bjarnesen for DEFGLIS