Fighting Domestic Violence in LGBTQIA+ Communities
When domestic violence is discussed and analyzed by lawmakers, psychiatric professionals, and the general public, often we hear the same story: the aggressive, manipulative man hurts his submissive, frightened woman. It is a story that has been heard for centuries, but what used to be an awful heterosexual norm is now an awful heterosexual issue. However, even as people of marginalized sexual orientations and genders integrate into the normalized, public sphere, stories of domestic violence often stay in the shadows. Though not many know or realize it, intimate partner violence is an even bigger issue in the LGBTQIA+ community than it is in the cis and heterosexual communities.
Domestic abuse in LGBTQIA+ relationships are underreported and unrecognized even though it continues to happen– in fact, it’s on the rise. In one survey, it was found that men in same sex relationships experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes up to three times more than those in heterosexual relationships. For women, it was almost two times more. Of course, this is a very broad look at just two large communities– smaller groups within the LGBTQIA+ are targeted more.
One of the reasons why domestic violence is so unacknowledged is because it affects those that are marginalized even within the community. LGBTQIA+ people of color and/or disabled people also experience intimate partner violence at a higher rate. One study found that transgender women face domestic violence at a rate up to three times higher than other identities. Not only are they victims of abuse, but these marginalized groups also can’t seem to get as much support.
“LGBTQ survivors across the country have a really hard time accessing domestic violence resources that are affirming in their identity,” said the senior manager of research at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Emily Waters.
This is because most domestic abuse shelters are only for women, which excludes both male-identifying victims in heterosexual relationships and those in homosexual relationships. It has been found that 2 in 5 gay or bisexual men experience domestic partner violence in their lifetimes and they often don’t have anywhere to go. These shelters often exclude trans women, too, even though they have just as much of a need for protection as cis women.
“We have to start expanding our understanding of intimate partner violence, so that these kinds of unique experiences can fit into the services and the ways that we talk about intimate partner violence,” said Waters.
We also have to start expanding our legal definitions of domestic abuse. Some states, like North Carolina, explicitly exclude same sex couples from partner violence legislation. We have to start a conversation with educators, with communities, and with lawmakers in order to fully protect everyone from abuse.
If you or someone you know is a victim of LGBTQIA+ intimate partner violence, call the Los Angeles’ LGBT Center’s Domestic Violence Legal Advocacy Project at 323-993-7649 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For non-legal services, you can also call their number at 323-860-5806.
Amelia Henry is a Guest Contributor at InQueery.