Dealing with Abuse in LGBTQ+ Relationships

The domestic violence awareness movement has historically focused heavily on heterosexual relationships, but research shows that LGBTQ+ people experience domestic violence at equal or higher rates than their non-LGBTQ+ peers.

Domestic abuse can come in many forms – physical, emotional, financial, or sexual – and members of the LGBTQ+ community are especially vulnerable to all of these forms of violence.

Here are some facts about domestic violence in the LGBTQ+ community, how to spot the signs of abuse, and where to seek help.

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Facts About Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
  • 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
  • Bisexual victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to people who do not identify as bisexual.
  • 20% of LGBTQ+ victims have experienced some form of physical violence, 16% have been victims of threats and intimidation, 15% have been verbally harassed, and 4% have experienced sexual violence.

Transgender individuals are more likely to experience threats, intimidation, harassment, and police violence within intimate partner violence. Specific forms of abuse in relationships where one partner is transgender include:

  • Using offensive pronouns like “it” to refer to a transgender partner.
  • Ridiculing a partner’s body or appearance.
  • Telling a transgender partner they’re not a “real” man or woman.
  • Otherwise mocking a person’s identity.
  • Withholding access to medical care.

Barriers that exist to addressing LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence are:

  • Society’s beliefs that domestic violence doesn’t happen in LGBTQ+ relationships.
  • Homophobia or lack of training among service providers.
  • Female-only domestic violence shelters that may not allow transgender women to enter.
  • The dangers associated with “outing” oneself and risking societal rejection while seeking help for intimate partner abuse.

Signs of Domestic Violence

Intimate partner abuse specific to the LGBTQ+ community can involve “outing,” or threatening to reveal a partner’s identity or orientation. This may be used as a tool of abuse or a barrier to seeking help.

Other signs of domestic violence in intimate relationships include:

  • Physical abuse: This may be hitting, punching, kicking, biting, hair-pulling, or attacking with weapons. Other forms of physical violence are abandoning a partner in an unfamiliar place or preventing a partner from receiving medical care.
  • Sexual abuse: Forcing or coercing a partner to engage in sexual activity or refusing to use condoms or birth control during sex, or dictating how a person dresses in public or private.
  • Verbal abuse: Regular criticism, ridicule, mocking, shaming, or intimidation of a partner.
  • Emotional abuse: This can be excessively jealous or controlling behavior that discourages a partner from having relationships outside of their intimate one. It may involve isolation from loved ones, monitoring a partner’s phone or social media accounts, unfounded accusations of cheating, or sudden mood swings that quickly transition from affectionate to aggressive.
  • Financial abuse: Controlling household finances without discussion, taking a partner’s money, refusing to pay fair share of expenses without discussion, or refusing to let a partner make personal decisions about work and school.

Resources for LGBTQ+ Domestic Violence Survivors

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a year-round, 24/7 hotline for survivors of domestic violence. Anyone can call 1-800-799-7233 to receive the support and tools they need to live free of abuse.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673. Survivors also can visit online.rainn.org to chat one-on-one with a trained support specialist.

The Anti-Violence Project supports LGBTQ+ people and HIV-affected domestic violence survivors through counseling and advocacy. The AVP hotline is 212-714-1141 via call or text.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Abuse offers support and resources to Keystone State abuse survivors.

Information about the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh can be found at www.wcspittsburgh.org.

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