When you think about domestic abuse, who comes to mind? A man abusing a woman? That's the standard answer for many of us. But same-sex partners and other LGBTQ+ couples experience domestic abuse, too – often at higher rates than their heterosexual peers. When it happens in these communities, there are fewer resources and less support.
Domestic Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Community
Domestic abuse awareness tends to focus on heterosexual couples, specifically female victims. However, abuse can happen in any relationship. The LGBTQ+ community isn't immune. In fact, statistics show there may be an even more significant problem in same-sex relationships:
- Nearly 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women report incidents of rape, violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Only 35% of heterosexual women reported the same.
- 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men report experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner, compared to 29% of heterosexual men.
- Only 26% of gay men called the police after a near-fatal violent experience.
- A 2012 study found that only about 5% of all LGBTQ+ domestic abuse survivors seek protective orders against their abusers.
- LGBTQ+ people of color face even greater incidences of domestic abuse than those who identify as white.
- Transgender abuse victims report increased rates of physical violence and harmful emotional abuse directly related to their gender identity.
(Statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline)
The Barriers to Getting Help
Even though rates of domestic abuse in LGBTQ+ communities are higher than among cisgender, heterosexual couples, survivors face more barriers when seeking help.
Those experiencing the abuse often fear being "outed" by their abuser, especially if they haven't revealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to friends, family, or colleagues. That, combined with the trauma and bullying they have likely experienced as an LGBTQ+ person, makes them less likely to risk being outed.
Secondly, LGBTQ+ folks face fewer options upon leaving a relationship. Many shelters serve cisgender women. Those who identify as anything else – gay men, transgender men and women, nonbinary people – cannot access the services available at these shelters. Many cities are beginning to offer services to anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, but these services can be challenging to find and even harder to access.
Finally, there is the issue of law enforcement. Many LGBTQ+ people hesitate to report abuse to the police – or involve law enforcement in any way – because of a longstanding history of mistreatment. Data shows that law enforcement's discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ+ people remains a pervasive problem, despite efforts to promote cultural change. LGBTQ+ people who experience abuse are far less likely to report abuse to police or seek protective orders, fearing the treatment they might experience.
How LGBTQ+ Folks Can Escape Domestic Violence
Abuse is never okay. It's not okay for any human to abuse another human, period. A man should never abuse a woman. A woman should never abuse a man. And someone from the LGBTQ+ community should never accept abuse from a partner.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse from a same-sex partner, get help. Tell someone you trust. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or contact an LGBTQ+-allied organization. No one deserves to live with abuse.
You can also search LGBTQ+-specific domestic abuse resources here.