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Disruptive Bodies

Interrogating the Gender Binary in Family Violence Policy and Practice

Illustration of a brown hand holding a non-binary flag, with yellow, white, purple and black stripes

Background

Family violence services in Australia operate within a “violence against women” framework, with most interventions delivered for female victim-survivors or male perpetrators. Despite radical roots, this framework entrenches a rigid adherence to the gender binary that leaves non-binary people without support.

 

​My PhD research builds on a previous study I did with colleagues for the Welsh government (Harvey et al, 2014), which found that non-binary people were either outright excluded from family violence services, or were required to present in a binary gender in order to access support. As a professional in the family violence sector, I know that nearly a decade on, these problems persist today. 

Research Aims

This study engages research as a tool of transformation, using participatory approaches to trouble the gender binary in family violence responses, through the lens of the experiences of people of non-binary genders and agender people. It aims to explore the boundaries of “gender-based violence” as a conceptual frame by describing the diversity of non-binary people’s experiences of gender and how they perceive gender in relation to their own experiences of family violence.  

While there is a growing body of literature on queer people’s experiences of family violence, there appear to be no studies explicitly focused on the experiences of people of non-binary genders. Further, outside of LGBTQIA+ specialist services, the family violence service sector in Australia is almost exclusively segregated into binary gender categories This means that most family violence professionals have not knowingly provided services to non-binary people.  

Through critical participatory action research (cPAR), this study aims to create a unique opportunity for people of non-binary genders impacted by family violence and professionals working in the sector to collaboratively interrogate the role of gender in family violence responses, and understand what changes are needed to facilitate greater inclusion. 

Research Questions

  1. How do people of non-binary genders describe the role of gender in their experiences of family violence? 

  2. As professionals who provide family violence services, how do our understandings of gender and our own gender identity inform our work? 

  3. What needs to change for family violence responses in “Australia” to be inclusive of people of non-binary genders? 

My research team

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Illustration of people sitting on office chairs in a meeting

Advisory Panel

The Advisory Panel meets three times per year and includes non-binary people with lived experience of family violence, as well as professionals from the family violence and LGBTQIA+ service sectors. The Panel provides expert advice to the doctoral candidate, ensuring that the project is conducted in a way that achieves its research aims.

To support cultural safety, there are always at least two Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander members on the Panel. Lived experience members and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members are paid for their attendance at panel meetings.

Read the Terms of Reference

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"Many victims’ services have quite rightly battled hard for the right to women-only provision. But this has created a situation where the majority of services are single-gender – and it’s still unclear where people who don’t simply identify as male or female are supposed to go."

- Shannon Harvey, Domestic abuse services are failing LGBT victims, The Conversation, 5 June 2014

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