A Saskatchewan Survey (2001-2002)
These surveys were intended to measure the level of awareness in Saskatchewan's 'lesbian community' about abuse in female same-sex relationships, and the availability of and need for 'lesbian friendly' services for women abused in same-sex relationships.
A. From the Survey of Individuals:
(46 self-selected respondents, 34 from Saskatoon, 6 from Regina;
24 abused/22 never abused)
I. What abusive behaviours do abused lesbians experience?
|Putting you down
|Swearing at you;
humiliating you in front of other people
|Making you feel
like nothing you do is ever good enough; making you the
blaming you for almost everything
|Violence to doors,
walls, furniture, possessions; threatening to leave you
with looks; putting down friends; calling you names; controlling
who you see
you go; what you do
putting your kids down; putting your family down
threats to hurt you; forcing you to have sex; making you
responsible for all the money and blaming you when there
is not enough; refusing to let you leave the relationship;
controlling who you talk to
grabbing; controlling what you say
with gestures; controlling all the money; outing you against
your wishes; refusing to let you be out
you to have rough sex; controlling money you earn; blaming
your kids for almost everything
pulling; abusing your kids; verbal threats to hurt your
friends; controlling what you wear
threats to hurt your pets; insisting that you work; treating
you like a servant or slave
|Abusing your pets;
verbal threats to hurt your kids; verbal threats to hurt
your family; threatening to out you
you with weapons
|Not allowing you
II. To whom did abused respondents talk about the abuse?
5 abused respondents had spiritual advisors and only 3 consulted
III. Respondents' reported knowledge of abuse and of Abuse
IV. Why didn't respondents seek help from an Abuse Help
Orientation = feel sexual orientation is a barrier; conf/anon
= worried about confidentiality/anonymity
So, if the goal is to encourage
lesbians in abusive same-sex relationships to seek help from Abuse
Help Agencies, they need:
- to know that they are being abused (accomplished perhaps by
listing abusive behaviours);
- assurance that there are abuse help agencies that are well
aware that abuse occurs in lesbian relationships, and that are
lesbian friendly; and
- a list of specific safe agencies.
V. Why did respondents seek help from an Abuse Help Agency?
The two who went to an agency
for help during the abusive relationship went specifically
to agencies where they knew there were either gay-positive counsellors
or lesbian counsellors. All 6 who've gone to an agency for help
since leaving the abusive relationship went to a non-same-sex
specific-agency, but only one would now suggest the non-same-sex
specific agencies she went to if a lesbian friend needed help—all
but two of the others would suggest a same-sex-specific agency (of
the other two, one lives in Regina*, and one did not know what to
suggest, even though she said the non-same-sex-specific agency she
went to "was helpful"). Of the 8 who ever went to an agency,
6 would now suggest either Gay &
Lesbian Health Services in Saskatoon (GLHS), a lesbian counsellor
she knows, or PFLAG/Pink Triangle (in Regina) i.e. all same-sex-specific
help, and, as above, of the other two, one lives in Regina* and
the other doesn't know what to suggest.
*Regina has no obvious, visible
‘dedicated' same-sex agency like Saskatoon's GLHS
VI. What suggestions would respondents make if a friend needed
50% of the entire cohort suggested
Gay & Lesbian Health Services (GLHS)
(69% of those residing in Saskatoon). (The next most suggested agency
was the sexual assault centre (24% of Saskatoon respondents and
33% of Regina respondents).) Unfortunately, while it is true that
GLHS has a province-wide toll-free number, that fact is not widely
known province-wide, and GLHS has no offices or staff outside of
Saskatoon. Because of the much higher percentage who suggested GLHS
in Saskatoon, we feel confident in assuming that whether or not
a respondent suggested GLHS is largely a function of knowing about
its existence (and at least a little about its programs). (Residents
of Saskatoon are simply more likely to know about GLHS.) We can
then also assume that if more lesbians residing outside of Saskatoon
knew about GLHS (and its toll-free number), they, too, would suggest
it. The following graphic illustration makes these assumptions difficult
to dispute, given the location of GLHS's office.
B. From the Survey of Service Providers:
(53 respondents, 12 from Saskatoon, 6 from Regina)
I. What services are provided to women abused in same-sex
II. Are the available services lesbian friendly?
76% of respondents said their
agency is lesbian friendly and 86% of those believe (in one way
or another) that what makes their services lesbian friendly is one
or more of the following:
However, there are many real barriers specific to lesbians that
keep them from accessing the services of abuse help agencies. (See
Appendices C (Understanding
Heterosexual Privilege), D (A Question of Perspective), and
E & F (re the experiences of lesbian staff members of
a Saskatchewan non-sheltering agency and of a shelter).) In order
to help lesbians overcome those barriers, agencies must do more
than just 'open their doors' and 'treat everyone the same'. Here
are some examples of strategies that can improve an agency's accessibility
specifically for lesbians:
- We treat everyone the same;
- Our door is open to everyone; or
- Our staff are friendly, knowledgeable and non-judgemental.
- Display posters, pictures and art work that depict positive
- Display posters and provide pamphlets that invite lesbians
to use your services
- Display posters and provide pamphlets on same-sex abuse.
- Distribute information re services so that it will reach lesbians
(see Appendix G for relevant publications, for example)
- Maintain an up-to-date referral list specifically for lesbians
- Include information on lesbian abuse when making presentations,
applying for funding, collecting statistics
- Conduct ongoing employee training (including support staff)
and workshops on heterosexism, homophobia, and diversity.
- Assess agency intake and assessment forms for inclusiveness.
- Provide books for children with same-sex parents (e.g. Heather
has Two Mommies)
- Ensure it is safe for staff to be 'out' at work.
- Adopt affirmative action plans to ensure diverse representation.
- Use inclusive language comfortably. (It is also important
to remember to use the language the client uses. She may not
want to be labeled as lesbian or bisexual.)
- Inform interventions with a consideration of the very real
stigmatization and discrimination faced by lesbians
- Sensitize the Board of Directors to the need for accessible
services for ALL people.
- Do not assume the abuser is a he. Use gender-neutral language
(e.g. partner, abuser, they, etc).
Adapted from Women Hurting Women Workshop and
Assisting Abused Lesbians
Of the 39 respondents that
said their agency's services are lesbian friendly, only 18 (46%)
make any efforts to inform the 'lesbian community' that their services
are lesbian friendly, and only 14 (36%) openly display sexual minority
material. 13% of rural respondents openly display sexual minority
material in comparison with 61% of urban respondents, even though
77% of rural agencies said their services are lesbian friendly,
as opposed to 72% of urban. (To conduct a comprehensive evaluation
of your agency's services re accessibility, see Appendix H, 'Evaluating
Your Service for Accessibility for Lesbians'.)
As for knowledgeable staff: the survey asked respondents to report
on their level of knowledge and we also independently scored them
on their level of knowledge re abuse in lesbian relationships and
re services for abused lesbians. Fewer respondents scored knowing
'Quite a bit/Some' than reported same, and conversely, more scored
knowing 'Very little/Nothing' than reported, i.e. many agencies
in Saskatchewan know less about lesbian abuse than they think. We
can see this nicely illustrated in the following graph:
Further analysis of the data
- Some agencies that reported knowing quite a bit actually know
very little and even nothing according to their score.
- Some of the training re providing lesbian friendly services
that respondents have already received was not valuable.
- Agencies that apparently need it the most are least willing
to take training in providing 'lesbian friendly' services.
- Many agencies that actually provide services to lesbians abused
in same-sex relationships know nothing or very little about
the issues and services.
III. Is there a need for lesbian friendly services, and if so,
is it being met?
From the Individual Analysis,
we know that lesbians in Saskatchewan are abused in same-sex relationships,
that there are significant barriers in the way of those lesbians
seeking help from Abuse Help Agencies, and that barriers would be
significantly lowered if lesbians had assurance that Abuse Help
Agencies were lesbian friendly. That is, there is definitely a need
in Saskatchewan for lesbian friendly services. It seems, from both
the Individual Analysis and the Service Providers Analysis, that
this need is not being met. Few agencies in Saskatchewan currently
meet minimum standards of accessibility required to achieve 'lesbian
friendliness'. Worse, it is mostly the more lesbian friendly agencies
that already realize this—many of those that are minimally accessible
believe they are doing fine.
IV. What Next?
A. For Saskatchewan agencies:
- Immediately review the list of strategies
to improve your accessibility for lesbians.
- Distribute this Executive Summary and Appendices
C, D, E, F, G & H to each and every staff and board
member, make all documents from the survey available to them
as well, and discuss the findings at staff and board meetings.
- Display the posters enclosed with the Executive Summary.
B. For the Ad Hoc Committee:
- Distribution of these findings.
- Development and distribution of a poster to all agencies to
establish Gay & Lesbian Health Services (GLHS) as
the immediate central clearing agency to be contacted by service
providers and recommended to clients in cases of same-sex abuse.
- Development and distribution
of a training package that is so user friendly it can optionally
be delivered by knowledgeable facilitators or in-house. (The
latter option would address the very real logistical and practical
difficulties of training entire staffs of disparate (geographically
and otherwise), and very busy, agencies.)