The 23rd September marks bi visibility day – a day to remind the world bisexuality is not ‘just a phase’, and that people continue to be bisexual regardless of their partner’s gender.
For Solace, it’s also a chance to reflect on the intersection between bisexuality and domestic and sexual abuse. A report published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that bisexual women were significantly more likely to have experienced partner abuse than heterosexual or lesbian women (10.9% compared to 6% and 8.2% respectively), and nearly 5 times more likely to have been sexually assaulted by a partner or ex-partner. This report highlighted that prevalence rates went up for bi women who faced other forms of oppression, for example women of colour, disabled women and trans women. These figures are also reflected across other groups, with bisexual young people and bisexual men also being at greater risk of violence than their heterosexual counterparts.
So what is it about bisexuality that leaves people particularly at risk? One could point to demographic factors that contribute to the additional vulnerability of bisexual people. For example, more bisexual people struggle with their mental health and /or use drugs or alcohol to cope; and more bi people are disabled compared to LGT and heterosexual people. All of these on their own and combined are factors that make people additionally vulnerable to violence and abuse.
However, it is not sexuality, nor ethnicity, nor disability, nor any other factor that causes someone to experience violence. That violence is perpetrated by people who seek to exploit those vulnerabilities, and is supported by wider societal messages that reinforce ideas that bisexual people, and any person who strays away from “the norm”, are less than. A report published just last week concluded that the discrimination faced by LGBT+ people on a day to day basis can create huge barriers to people accessing support, and services are not openly and clearly conveying the message that bisexual people and the wider LGBT community are welcome and supported.
Inclusion matters to us at Solace: we strive to ensure that bisexual people feel safe to access our services, and know that they will not be judged, we will not make assumptions about them, and we will not make assumptions about the gender of their perpetrator. We ensure our teams feel confident to respond to the needs of bisexual survivors through ongoing training for staff and volunteers, and we are looking to see what more we can do to be meaningfully inclusive. Solace stands with the bisexual community supporting them to live lives free from violence and abuse.