Over Christmas, people within the LGBTQ+ community may experience loneliness and a lack of support from family and friends in relation to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Estrangement from family and friends is an unfortunate reality for some people who are LGBTQ+. Being disconnected from family members who are unable to accept you for who you are, can be extremely difficult.
According to Akt, an LGBT homelessness charity, almost a quarter of young people who are homeless identify as LGBTQ+, with 77 per cent stating coming out to their parents was a main reason why they left home.
LGBTQ+ people are also disproportionality impacted by crime. In Scotland, hate crimes towards the LGBTQ+ community are the second most common following racial attacks; and we’ve seen an increase year on year since recording began. In 2020-21, 1,580 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation, 5 per cent more than in 2019-20.
Experiencing estrangement and lack of support can be even more difficult if a person has been the victim of a crime, prejudice or is suffering domestic abuse.
As Scotland’s national charity dedicated to supporting everyone impacted by crime, Victim Support Scotland takes our equalities work seriously, as we know that certain groups are unfortunately affected by crime disproportionality compared the rest of the population.
People’s vulnerabilities are all the more pronounced during the festivities, and its important that people are aware that there is support available, even during the holiday season.
Victim Support Scotland has therefore launched a new campaign #LGBTQatChristmas which is about informing people what support is available, encouraging them to speak about their experiences, and feel confident in reporting a crime.
We are fortunate in Scotland that there are a number of support and rights-based organisations available to LGBTQ+ people when the going gets tough – LGBT Youth Scotland, LGBT Health and Wellbeing and Stonewall Scotland – to name a few.
At Victim Support Scotland, we have gone through extensive training on LGBTQ+ and wider equalities awareness, allowing our services to be even better informed and giving reassurances to people coming into our services that we are here for them. Our Equalities Forum, which involves staff members and volunteers from across Scotland, has been a driving force for much of this work.
Through Victim Support Scotland’s #LGBTQatChristmas campaign we are aiming to empower more LGBTQ+ people to access support services. We want Scotland’s LGBTQ+ population to feel better informed of what support and rights they have access to, and to ensure that our partner organisations are heightened to the needs of LGBTQ+ people at this time of year.
At Victim Support Scotland we offer free and confidential support that is free from judgement, and we can help you report a crime and navigate the criminal justice system. We can also provide you with emotional and practical support, especially if you feel isolated from friends and family.
Anyone in need of our support should call 0800 160 1985 or see: www.victimsupport.scot.
We are encouraging everyone to get involved in our campaign by using #LGBTQatChristmas on social media and posting pictures of themselves using the materials available on our website.
Mike Findlay is Head of Communications & External Affairs at Victim Support Scotland