The LGBTQIA+ community has frequently been overlooked in research about domestic violence, sexual abuse, and interpersonal violence. Thankfully, research has been increasingly inclusive, however the results are disturbing. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Study, 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation, participants who identified as being gay or lesbian were equally or more likely to report domestic or sexual violence as their straight counterparts (VAWnet). Equally disturbing, bisexual women were more likely to report “rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner compared to straight or heterosexual women” (VAWnet). The study also found that bisexual men were more likely to report physical violence, stalking, or rape more than gay or heterosexual men. Additionally, people who are transgender are more likely to experience higher rates of violence. This is unfortunately and especially true for transgender people of color, particularly black transgender women.
Not only are members of the LGBTQIA+ community more likely to experience domestic and sexual violence, but there are unique elements of abuse that need to be addressed. In relationships involving domestic violence, the threat of “outing” is used to manipulate the survivor. Outing refers to exposing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity before that person is ready to come out on their own (NCADV.org). This can—and does—make the survivor stay in the abusive relationship and make them less likely to seek help. Previous experiences with trauma, like bullying or hate crimes, may also make it less likely that LGBTQIA+ members seek help for domestic and sexual violence. It is also important to note that transgender survivors are even more likely to experience threats, police violence, and harassment in the context of abusive relationships.
These facts are so important to understand, for those who work in the field of interpersonal violence prevention, but also for those who do not. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community experience domestic and sexual violence in their relationships, alongside those in heterosexual relationships. Typically, queer people experience violence at higher rates. There is also a stark lack of effective legal responses. Forty-five percent of LGBTQIA+ victims do not report incidents of domestic and sexual violence to the police because they feel as though they won’t or cannot help (NCADV.org). This community is also denied services due to homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.
There are many other barriers for LGBTQIA+ individuals when seeking services. There is some notion and stereotype that domestic and sexual violence does not occur in these relationships, which is false. Another barrier is that some believe that talking about these issues will fuel anti-queer bias. However, talking about these issues and shaping agencies to address them will, in fact, be a step toward creating equality and equity for the community. Some agencies have a lack of appropriate training in relation to this disproportionate violence. Taking steps to educate oneself about these issues and how to address them during the counseling relationship or direct survivor services is crucial. Being able to teach other staff members and colleagues is even more crucial. Taking time to do this and advertising your agency as having queer-friendly and more so, affirming resources, is imperative in creating a safe space for members to seek help.