Domestic violence is a pervasive issue affecting individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. While much of the domestic violence awareness movement has historically focused on heterosexual relationships, it is crucial to recognize that members of the LGBTQ+ community are not immune to this problem.
Recent research paints a sobering picture, revealing that LGBTQ+ individuals often experience domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In this article, we will explore the barriers to safety faced by LGBTQ+ individuals when addressing domestic violence and the unique aspects of abuse within this community.
The Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ+ Community
Domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ community takes various forms, including physical violence, threats, intimidation, verbal harassment, sexual violence, and cases involving weapons. Statistics tell a troubling story about the prevalence of domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ community.
Higher Rates of Violence: A study found that 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women had experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. Approximately 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, while 29% of heterosexual men reported the same.
Underreporting: In a study of male same-sex relationships, only 26% of men sought police assistance after experiencing near-lethal violence.
Bisexual Victims Face Sexual Violence: A number of studies concluded that bisexual individuals are more likely to experience sexual violence compared to their non-bisexual counterparts. Bisexual erasure in society often leads to the marginalization and invisibility of individuals who identify as bisexual, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about their sexual orientation that make seeking help difficult.
Racial Disparities: LGBTQ+ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, while LGBTQ+ white victims are more likely to experience sexual violence.
“Outing” as a Weapon: Abusers in LGBTQ+ relationships may use the threat of revealing their partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a tool of abuse. This can deter victims from seeking help due to fear of discrimination or rejection.
Prior Trauma: Many LGBTQ+ victims of domestic violence have previously experienced physical or psychological trauma, such as bullying or hate crimes, making them less likely to seek help.
Transgender Intimate Partner Violence
Transgender individuals face a particularly severe burden of intimate partner violence, including threats, harassment, and police violence within their relationships. It is also common for transgender individuals to experience IPV in public. Abusers often target their partner’s gender identity by:
- Ridiculing their body and appearance
- Invalidation, manipulation and gaslighting
Why It Matters
The rates of intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ+ community are alarming, emphasizing the need for support and resources tailored to this demographic. LGBTQ+ individuals may experience unique forms of intimate partner violence and face significant barriers to seeking help, often stemming from fear of discrimination or misunderstanding.
Barriers to Seeking Services/Receiving Assistance
Several barriers exist that hinder addressing LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence, including societal beliefs, homophobia, lack of training among service providers, fear of “outing,” limited LGBTQ+-friendly assistance resources, and low confidence in the legal system. Discrimination and bias further exacerbate these barriers, as some LGBTQ+ individuals are denied assistance due to homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
Understanding and Facing the Challenges
Domestic violence is not confined to heterosexual relationships, and LGBTQ+ individuals experience it at alarming rates. Understanding the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community when addressing intimate partner violence is crucial. Initiatives must focus on raising awareness, providing education, and creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ victims to seek help without fear of discrimination or rejection.
Breaking down these barriers is essential to ensuring the safety and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQIA+ RESOURCES – www.ncedsv.org
Domestic Violence and the LGBTQ Community (ncadv.org)
LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation (dvafoundation.org)
The Blueprint Project: 2SLGBTQ+ Community of Practice – Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (acws.ca)