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Assaults against LGBTIQ people rose 50% during Australia's marriage equality vote

'The public debate over the equality of our bodies, relationships and feelings has been exhausting and frequently painful'

Assaults against LGBTIQ people rose 50% during Australia's marriage equality vote
Pixabay | Public Domain
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New research has revealed the disturbing consequences of Australia’s postal survey on same-sex marriage.

Preliminary results of survey that included more than 9,500 LGBTIQ people and their allied revealed the national debate on the issue took a massive toll on them.

In September the Australian Government announced a non-binding national postal survey asking Australians if they agreed the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. More than 61% of Australians agreed and the Federal Parliament is now debating a Bill on the issue.

But a joint study between The Australia Institute and the National LGBTI Health Alliance found that the survey had a very negative impact on the LGBTIQ community and its allies.

The survey had so many participants that it will take months to analyze all the data, but the preliminary results are very worrying.

The survey investigated stress as a result of exposure to negative messages about LGBTIQ people and same-sex marriage and how people responded to this during the surve.

Some key results of the survey:

  • Most respondents said that they experienced negative messages about LGBTIQ+ people or same sex marriage at least daily, especially from online and television media.
  • LGBTIQ+ respondents said experiences of verbal and physical assaults in the 3 months following the announcement of the postal vote more than doubled, compared to the 6 months prior to the announcement.
  • LGBTIQ+ respondents experiencing depression, anxiety and stress increased by more than a third after the announcement of the vote, compared to the 6 months before the announcement.
  • More than 90% of LGBTIQ+ people said that debate would have a negative impact on them to some degree
  • Almost 80% of LGBTIQ+ people and almost 60% allies said that they found the marriage equality debate considerably or extremely stressful.
  • Almost 70% of LGBTIQ+ people said they ‘avoided being with people in general’ at least some of the time as a method of coping
  • Evidence of resilience and positive coping strategies were evident for example 80% of respondents participated to some degree in LGBTIQ+ affirmative activities such as attending marches, raising awareness or displaying yes or rainbow images

Express yourself

‘The response has been incredible and goes to show just how much people needed an opportunity to express how this time has affected them,’ said Lead researcher, Dr Saan Ecker said.

‘A disturbing initial finding is experiences of verbal and physical assaults more than doubled in the 3 months after the announcement of the postal vote compared to the 6 months before.

‘There was also an increase in reported experiences of depression, anxiety and stress after the announcement of the vote.

‘It will take time to fully analyse this data, in particular long-form responses, however initial results show that the debate was a highly stressful event for many LGBTIQ+ people and their allies.’

Exhausting and painful

Rebecca Reynolds is the executive director of the National LGBTI Health Alliance. They provide a number of services to the community. One of those services includes Q Life, a counselling service which experienced a dramatic increase in a demand for its services during the postal survey.

‘The public debate over the equality of our bodies, relationships and feelings has been exhausting and frequently painful,’ Reynolds said.

‘These aspects of who we are should never have been the subject of public discussion, rather they should be celebrated in everyday life.’


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