Domestic Violence, also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), affects people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. IPV occurs at similar or even greater rates in the LGBTQ+ community as it does in heterosexual groups. However, members of the LGBTQ+ community experience unique circumstances and barriers to assistance that can have a serious impact on how they experience domestic violence.
It's vital that mandated reporters and domestic violence organizations educate themselves on the ways IPV affects LGBTQ+ people to best serve these communities.
Gay Men and Lesbian Women Experience IPV at Similar Rates to Heterosexual Groups
A 2015 research review by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that 25.2% of gay men and 40.4% of lesbians experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, compared to 28.7% of heterosexual men and 32.3% of heterosexual women. The review notes that these differences are not considered statistically significant.
More than Half of Transgender and Nonbinary People Experience Intimate Partner Violence in Their Lifetimes
Domestic violence affects transgender and nonbinary people at alarming rates. 54% of transgender and nonbinary people experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
In the U.S., transphobia and systemic discrimination increase the vulnerability of transgender and gender non-conforming people. The Human Rights Campaign has tracked anti-transgender violence for more than seven years. On average, at least 22 transgender and gender non-conforming people are victims of fatal violence each year. The organization estimates that the violent killing rate for Black transgender women is five times that of the general population.
Bisexual Individuals Face Alarming Rates of Sexual Violence
A 2020 report by the Human Rights Campaign found that 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, compared to 35% of straight women.
In 2015, the Williams Institute reported that 37.3% of bisexual men experience IPV in their lifetimes, compared to 28.7% of heterosexual men. Bisexual men also experienced higher rates of stalking and rape than their heterosexual counterparts.
Men and Women Both Contribute to IPV Among Sexual Minority Women
Studies find that both men and women contribute to the rate of intimate partner violence among sexual minority women.
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control released data indicating that 89.5% of bisexual women who experienced IPV reported only male perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Two-thirds of lesbians reported only female perpetrators of domestic violence, with one-third of lesbians reporting one or more male perpetrators.
LGBTQ+ Youth Report Higher Rates of Dating and Intimate Partner Violence Than Their Straight Peers
The Human Rights Campaign report also found higher dating and intimate partner violence rates in LGBTQ+ youth than in their straight peers. 7% of non-LGBTQ youth reported physical dating violence and 8% reported sexual dating violence, while 18% of LGBTQ+ youth experienced physical dating violence and 16% experienced sexual dating violence. Transgender youth experienced the highest levels of physical dating violence.
LGBTQ+ youth of color are at greater risk of physical and sexual dating violence compared to non-LGBTQ+ white youth. The CDC's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 19% of Black youth, 20% of Native American youth, 13% of Asian youth, and 16% of Latinx youth have experienced dating violence, compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ+ white youth.
LGBTQ+ Individuals Experience Unique Barriers to Assistance
A 2021 study by the National LGBTQ Institute on IPV found that 15% of participants never spoke to anyone about their experience with intimate partner violence. The number of individuals who never spoke to anyone about the violence they experienced included:
- One quarter of Latinx LGBTQ+ respondents
- One quarter of transgender men and women
- 75% of respondents under the age of 24
When they do seek assistance, LGBTQ+ communities experience unique barriers to receiving appropriate support in dealing with intimate partner violence.
Per the Human Rights Campaign, 85% of service providers working with LGBTQ+ victims report that the victim had previously been denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To help address this, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 recognized the LGBTQ+ community as an underserved population entitled to be protected from discrimination by service providers.
The Williams Institute and the National LGBTQ Institute on IPV report barriers including:
- The risk of outing oneself when seeking help.
- Programs lacking knowledge about LGBTQ+ communities and relationships.
- Potential homophobia or transphobia from staff, service providers, or other survivors.
- Low levels of confidence in the sensitivity and effectiveness of law enforcement and courts for LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Racism and a lack of intersectional services among both non-LGBTQ+ and LGBQ+ specific IPV programs.
LGBTQ+ IPV Survivors Prefer to Seek Help From LGBTQ-Specific Organizations
Given the barriers to assistance expressed above, it’s not surprising to find that LGBTQ+ survivors of intimate partner violence prefer to seek assistance from LGBTQ-specific programs.
69% of participants in the survey by the National LGBTQ Institute on IPV indicated that they would prefer support from an LGBTQ-specific organization. Transgender respondents were the most likely to prefer an LGBTQ-specific organization.
More Research is Needed to Understand and Address This Issue
There is a great need for further research on the topic of LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence.
The Williams Institute expressed limited availability of research on IPV in LGBTQ+ communities using randomly selected, representative samples. In particular, there were a very limited number of studies devoted solely to transgender people. Additionally, the National LGBTQ Institute on IPV expressed a need for further research into the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth with domestic violence and why they are so much less likely to reach out for help. Furthermore, per the Human Rights Campaign, while some federal and state data collection efforts include metrics on gender identity, most do not, leading to a lack of inclusive data.
Continued research and advocacy are essential to help LGBTQ+ individuals who have experienced domestic violence connect with potentially life-saving services.
If you or someone you care about has experienced domestic violence, find more resources from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.