What To Look For
Domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships and can affect individuals of all sexual orientations and genders. Within the LGBTQ+ community, intimate partner violence occurs at a rate equal to or even higher than that of the heterosexual community.
LGBTQ+ individuals may experience unique forms of intimate partner violence as well as distinctive barriers to seeking help due to fear of discrimination or bias.
Although the response to LGBTQ+ victims of domestic violence is gradually improving, the LGBTQ+ community if often met with ineffective and victimizing legal responses. Forty-five percent of victims do not report the violence they experience to police because they believe it will not help them.
Further more, members of the LGBTQ+ community may be denied assistance and domestic violence services as a result of homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
Sexual Minority Men
- According to the NISVS, bisexual men seem more likely to report ever having experienced IPV than heterosexual men, and gay men seem less likely than heterosexual men to report ever having experienced IPV. However, these differences are not statistically significant.
- One study that used a representative sample estimated that 26.9% of gay men had experienced IPV in their lifetimes and 12.1% had experienced IPV in the past year (Goldberg et al, 2013).
- Another study estimated a lifetime prevalence of IPSA among sexual minority men of 3.1% among gay men, as well as among bisexual men and MSM (Messinger, 2011).
There are several aspects of intimate partner violence which can be unique to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Outing” or threatening to reveal one partner’s sexual orientation/gender identity may be used as a tool of abuse in violent relationships and may also be a barrier which reduces the likelihood of help-seeking for the abuse.
Prior experiences of physical or psychological trauma, such as bullying and hate crime, may make LGBTQ+ victims of domestic violence less likely to see help.
Recent research shows that LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
Seeking help can be complicated
LGBTQ+ survivors may be afraid to reach out for help for some unique reasons:
Systematic discrimination: Survivors may fear being denied resources because of their LGBTQ+ identity. They may also fear that the resources will not be inclusive or supportive of their identity.
Community relations: It is common for LGBTQ+ communities to gather in “safe spaces,” or areas that are supportive of their identities. A survivor could have a higher probability of running into their abuser in these shared spaces.
Identity abuse: The abuser may weaponize the identity of the survivor and threaten to out the survivor to people in their life. The survivor may be manipulated into thinking that this is “normal” in LGBTQ+ relationships or that they are “not enough” of their identity.
All LGBTQ+ survivors deserve to feel supported and affirmed when experiencing IPV. When reaching out for help can feel scary, responding to survivors with compassion and support is even more important.
What you can do
The LGBTQ+ community faces different risks when experiencing interpersonal violence, fortunately there are some easy actions you can take to support LGBTQ+ survivors:
Learn about how to create and model healthy relationships in all parts of your life. Don’t assume that someone’s relationship must be healthy or unhealthy because of their gender or sexuality.
Get familiar with local resources for all survivors of domestic violence. Share the information with your communities!
Educate yourself on how to support and be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. If someone tells you they’re experiencing IPV, believe them, and tell them they’re not responsible for the behavior of their partner.
Also make it clear that people should be accountable for their own behavior. Sexual orientation or gender identity are not excuses for harming a partner.
Follow LGBTQ+ activists on social media to stay up to date with current issues.
Together, we can build a future that is free from interpersonal violence for all communities and identities.