Intimate Partner Violence and Transgender Victims

Intimate Partner Violence and Transgender Victims

Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs across all demographics in American society. Those in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender and nonbinary individuals, are at an increased risk of emotional, physical, and sexual violence. 

Transgender people – and transgender women of color in particular – face overwhelming obstacles when trying to report domestic violence and leave abusive partners. 

Violence Against Trans and Nonbinary People: The Staggering Statistics

Transgender and nonbinary people face a greater risk of violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender and nonbinary people experience “high levels of mistreatment, harassment, and violence in every aspect of life.” 

The report also revealed that:

  • One in ten trans and nonbinary people who were out to their immediate families reported violence from a family member because of their gender identity.
  • 30% of respondents say they experienced harassment or physical or sexual assault at work because of their gender identity.
  • 46% of those in the survey said they had experienced verbal abuse in the year prior to taking the survey.
  • 9% reported that they were physically attacked in the year prior to taking the survey.
  • 10% were sexually assaulted in the same time period.
  • 47% of respondents say they had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

In their romantic relationships, trans and nonbinary people are 2.2 times more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV) and 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual IPV than cisgender people.

Suffering in Silence

Like so many survivors, especially those who are marginalized, transgender victims often suffer in silence. It’s not uncommon for them to have inadequate support from family members and friends, leaving them feeling trapped inside an abusive relationship. 

Their abusers use the same tactics as any other abuser, trying to assert power and control. However, abusers of transgender partners often use their marginalization as a weapon. Abusers might threaten to “out” the victim to family, friends, or co-workers. They might use incorrect pronouns or names (known as “dead naming”) to inflict mental pain. Or they might prey on the transgender person’s insecurities, pointing out the lack of resources, the incredible social stigma, or the dangers the “outside world” represents, keeping the victim feeling powerless.

These victims face isolation merely by being in these abusive relationships. But their marginalization as members of the transgender community only adds to their isolation, making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner safely

Barriers to Getting Help

Many protections designed to help IPV victims are inaccessible to transgender and nonbinary people. 

Take reporting the abuse to law enforcement, for instance. The transgender community has a long and sordid history of mistreatment at the hands of the police. This problem is still pervasive today. In fact, 57% of transgender people say they are afraid to contact the police when they need help. Because of this distrust, instances of domestic violence are underreported among transgender victims.

Domestic violence shelters represent another roadblock for transgender people, particularly trans women and nonbinary people. The U.S. Transgender Survey reported that 70% of transgender and nonbinary people who had been in a shelter in the past year had experienced “some form of mistreatment, including being harassed, sexually or physically assaulted, or kicked out because of being transgender.” 

So, when a transgender person tries to leave an abusive and dangerous situation, they have nowhere to go. They may have limited or no connection with family members. They fear the police and refuse to report the abuse. And the shelters designed to help domestic violence victims either aren’t welcoming or don’t have the policies in place to protect members of the transgender community. 

Creating a Safer World for Our Transgender Loved Ones

Transgender and nonbinary people have lived in the margins for years. Only recently are we beginning to acknowledge the unique challenges this community faces. 

Everyone deserves to live and love in a safe, healthy environment. If you want to learn more about IPV within the transgender community or access resources designed specifically for trans and nonbinary people, visit the National Center for Transgender Equality.
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