The idea to start an LGBT Domestic Abuse Support Group came to Leslie Burdine when she began working at Families First, a local organization specializing in counseling and education services for individuals and families. Leslie was hired in September 2010 as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate within the organization’s Breaking Free program (which provides support and education services to individuals struggling with domestic abuse). Being a member of the LGBT community herself, Leslie was well aware of the lack of LGBT resources within Indianapolis. It didn’t take her long to discover there were no LGBT-specific domestic violence services being offered in central Indiana.
“That lack of service really concerned me,” Leslie says. Studies show that domestic abuse occurs in LGBT communities with as much frequency and severity as it does in the heterosexual community (GLBT Domestic Violence Coalition and Jane Doe Inc., 2005). “There’s a whole group of people suffering from abuse, with few places they feel they can turn to for help,” Leslie notes.
After worrying over the logistics of the support group for months, Leslie finally felt ready to make her vision a reality. “I wanted to actually do it,” she says, “not just keep talking about it.”
The LGBT Domestic Abuse Support Group launched two months ago, and already the feedback from the Indianapolis community has been positive. Leaders from the Domestic Violence Network, the Julian Center, the Salvation Army, Our Loving Arms and Indy Pride have all expressed enthusiasm for this much-needed service. Leslie’s glad to have the support of the non-profit community behind her, but she’s realistic about the difficulty of connecting individuals who are LGBT with this new resource.
“It’s hard enough for someone struggling with domestic violence to reach out for help,” Leslie notes. “But for a person who is LGBT, who already faces a lot of prejudice in the community at large, it can be even harder.”
Leslie understands this reluctance to seek help. “The LGBT community already struggles with a lack of community-wide support,” she says. “So it can be hard for that same community to admit that domestic violence exists within their group. There’s a fear that doing so will only compound what’s already a fairly negative public image.” Leslie hopes that as more individuals join the new group, and discover it to be a healing and supportive experience, more domestic abuse survivors within the LGBT community will be inspired to seek help, too.
For more information about Breaking Free’s confidential LGBT Domestic Abuse Support Group, please call Leslie Burdine at 317-644-7233.