When you think about the terms “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence,” what comes to mind? Probably a male abuser and a female victim, because that is what we typically see on the news, in movies and on social media. And based on statistics, we most often see males carrying out violence toward girls or women. However, it is important to know that relationship violence can impact communities in different ways, including those in LGBTQ relationships.
People who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence and sexual violence than people who identify as heterosexual or “straight.” As a reminder, we define intimate partner violence as the use of power and control over a current or former intimate partner. It can be physical, sexual, digital, financial, verbal or emotional in nature.
Let’s go over some statistics*:
- LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to LGBTQ victims who are not Black/African American.
- 43% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
- 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.
- Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
Unique Forms of Violence
There are several elements of intimate partner violence that are unique to the LGBTQ community.
For example, let’s talk about “outing” someone. This is when one partner threatens to tell others who may not know, such as an employer, family or place of worship, the sexual orientation/gender of their partner. Threatening to “out” someone, or actually doing it, can be extremely damaging for the victim. It can cause them to feel a sense of isolation, shame, fear or even thoughts of suicide. It should always be up to the individual to come out to people in their lives.
Threatening to reveal gender identity may be used as a tool of abuse in unhealthy relationships and may stop a victim from seeking help.
In addition, a victim’s prior experiences of trauma, such as bullying (online or in-person) or hate crimes, could hinder their desire to get help, especially if they had poor experience with providers and systems in the past.
Transgender Intimate Partner Violence
Transgender (trans) victims of intimate partner violence are more likely to experience threats or intimidation, harassment and police violence. Unique forms of abuse occur within relationships where at least one partner is transgender, including:
- Using incorrect or purposely offensive pronouns, such as “it,” when talking to or about the transgender partner.
- Criticizing the transgender partner’s body and/or appearance, such as makeup choices, clothing choices or hair style.
- Suggesting that the transgender partner’s identity is actually “bisexual,” “femme,” “butch,” “gender queer,” etc., which can be a form of gaslighting.
- Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse when an abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting their own memory or perceptions. Gaslighting can make the victim unsure of anything because they question their instincts and reasoning.
- Portraying the violence as mutual and even consensual, or as an expression of masculinity or some other “desirable” trait.
Barriers to Seeking Help
LGBTQ individuals also may run into barriers** to seeking help, often due to fear or discrimination. Barriers can include, but are not limited to:
- The dangers associated with “outing” oneself, or “coming out,” and risking rejection or disapproval from family, friends and society.
- Potential homophobia from staff of service providers, or from non-LGBTQ domestic violence victims they may come into contact with.
- Lack of appropriate training regarding LGBTQ domestic violence for service providers, which could be as basic as asking about someone’s pronouns.
- Domestic violence shelters may only serve girls and women. This could mean that transgender individuals may not be able to receive shelter or services due to gender/genital/legal status.
- The lack of, or survivors being unaware of, LGBTQ-friendly assistance and resources.
Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected, especially in their relationship. Local and national resources and services are available to those who may be experiencing intimate partner violence. Below is a list of resources that cater specifically to the LGBTQ community.
Since 1996, The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) has provided comprehensive programs and support to LGBTQ+ survivors of hate and bias violence, discrimination, intimate partner violence, stalking and/or sexual assault.
A non-judgmental hotline with LGBTQ-sensitive trained counselors you can contact through a call, text, or chat during a mental health crisis and/or suicidal thoughts.
Live Chat: The Trevor Project
A 24/7 hotline available in the U.S. and Canada staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline is primarily for transgender people in a crisis, from struggling with gender identity to thoughts of self-harm.
Kaleidoscope Youth Center (KYC)
From peer-to-peer programs to HIV prevention and education, Kaleidoscope assists LGBTQI youth (ages 12-20) transition to healthy, productive adults and provides them with necessary tools to achieve personal and professional success. Kaleidoscope was founded in 1994, and is the only organization in Ohio that is solely dedicated to serving LGBTQI teens and youth.
BRAVO – Ohio
Provides comprehensive programs and support to LGBTQ+ survivors of hate and bias violence, discrimination, intimate partner violence, stalking and/or sexual assault.
Toll-free Helpline: 1-866-86-BRAVO
The mission of Equitas Health is to be the gateway to good health for those at risk of or affected by HIV, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community, and for those seeking a welcoming healthcare home.
Gender Spectrum Lounge
An online support community. This resources provides education, training and support to create an inclusive environment, and is helpful for both youth and parents.