Domestic and sexual violence can impact anyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Survivors in the LGBTQI+ community have unique experiences and often face barriers to getting help because of their identify. All survivors have a right to access services and live a life free from violence. Learn more about how gender-based violence impacts the LGBTQI+ community and ways to be a supportive ally.
Tactics of Domestic and Sexual Violence
Domestic and sexual violence looks different for everyone, however survivors in the LGBTQI+ community face specific tactics of domestic and sexual violence. Some examples of these unique experiences are:
- Abusive partners using their partners’ sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression to belittle them. This may look like:
- Using their sexual history against them
- Using offensive pronouns such as “it” to refer to the transgender partner or ridiculing their body and/or appearance
- Belittling the partner, saying that that they are not a “real” man or woman
- Not believing that their partner is bisexual/using that identity against them
- Threats of “outing” to family or employers or pressuring them to come out
- Corrective rape—a type of sexual violence that occurs because of a victim’s perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression where the perpetrator uses rape as an attempt to “cure” or “correct” a victim
- Controlling and/or questioning the victim’s gender identity or gender expression. For example, refusing to allow them to dress in clothes and wear or use gender-affirming clothing and/or devices
- Withholding hormones like testosterone injections or other gender-affirming hormone therapies
- Creating rifts between the survivor and the often small LGBTQI+ community, cutting off access to that support system
- When there are other identities, such as a person of color or an individual with a disability, the community is even smaller which can create further isolation
- The abusive partner posing as the abused partner to prevent the survivor from accessing the limited resources available and/or tracking the survivor through service providers
Barriers to Seeking Support
Survivors from all different backgrounds often have a difficult time getting help for domestic and sexual violence. They may be in fear of what happens if they get help, think no one will believe them, or be financially dependent on their abusive partner. For survivors in the LGBTQI+ community, there are additional barriers to seeking support:
- Societal myths that abuse does not occur in LGBTQI+ relationships, especially in lesbian relationships where it is believed that women do not perpetrate abuse
- Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia at the hands of the police or service providers
- Fear of not being helped or believed by traditional service providers and facing discrimination and denial of services
- Repeatedly having to come out every time they talk to someone new (advocates, police, hospital staff, attorneys, etc.) or fear of being outed
- An often small LGBTQI+ community and possible lack of support if the abusive partner used the community against them
- Fear of being treated by a medical doctor because of past experiences
All survivors can benefit from safety planning with an advocate or trusted professional. While there are safety planning tools that benefit all survivors, there are unique considerations for survivors in the LGBTQI+ community:
- Identify LGBTQI+ friendly locations, service providers, and organizations to seek safety
- Know your rights as a member of LGBTQI+ community
- Pack an emergency safety bag and make sure to include any gender-affirming items like:
- Driver’s license/state identification card
- Carry letter if your identification has not been completely updated
- Surgeon’s letter if your identification has not been completely updated
- Hormones, prosthetics, prescriptions, etc.
- Binders and gender-affirming clothing
Download the Domestic and Sexual Violence Safety Planning for LGBTQI+ Survivors Flyer
Allies can make a difference in survivors’ lives just by believing them, listening to them without judgement, and supporting their decisions. Here are additional ways to support survivors in the LGBTQI+ community:
- Initiate a conversation in private and when you have enough time to talk at length, but only if they want to.
- Let go of any expectations you have that there is a “quick fix.” Not doing anything may very well be the safest thing they can do at any given time.
- Challenge false attitudes and beliefs that you may have about domestic or sexual violence.
- Believe victims and let them know that you do. If you know the person who has or is abusing them, it may be hard to believe that they are capable of abuse but remember that abusers typically act differently in public than they do in private.
- Listen to what they tell you. avoid making judgments and giving advice. They will let you know what they need.
- Refer them to a service provider who can provide necessary medical attention, counseling or emotional support, safety planning, housing and discuss their options.
- Build on their strengths. Point out how they have developed ways to cope, solved problems, and showed courage and determination.
- Validate their feelings. It is common for victims to have conflicting feelings—love and fear, guilt and anger, hope and sadness. Let them know that these feelings are normal.
- Avoid victim-blaming. Tell the victim that the abuse is not their fault.
- Take it seriously. If you are concerned about their safety, tell them you are concerned without judgment by simply saying, “Your situation sounds dangerous and I’m concerned about your safety.”
- Offer help. Offer specific forms of help and information, such as providing childcare, driving them to appointments, or assisting with pets.
- Give them control. Abuse and assault take control away from victims. Support their decisions about who to tell, what steps to take, and what types of support they need. Additionally, asking before offering any physical support such as hugs and being upfront about what support you can and cannot provide allows them to take control of their safety and next steps.
- Support and respect their decisions. Remember that there are risks with every decision a victim makes and that there is no "one way" an individual reacts to abuse or assault. Be patient and respect their decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.
Start the Conversation
Help bring information about gender-based violence in the LGBTQI+ community to light and “Start the Conversation” with the people in your life.
- What are some common misconceptions about domestic violence in LGBTQI+ communities?
- Where do these misconceptions come from?
- What is the impact of these misconceptions on survivors in the LGBTQI+ community?
- How do we start to unlearn these misconceptions?
- How might a survivor be impacted if they have multiple oppressed identities? (e.g., a survivor who identifies as Black, Trans, and has a disability)
- Why do you think there is a higher prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQI+ community?
- How can I use my privilege to support others?
Events and Learning Opportunities
Gender-Based Violence in LGBTQI+ Communities
This 60-minute interactive WebEx training is a basic introduction to gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual violence, in LGBTQI+ communities.
Download the Gender-Based Violence in LGBTQI+ Communities Training Flyer
Roots to Branches: Defining Masculinity in the LGBTQI+ Community
A panel of advocates come together for a candid conversation about masculinity in the LGBTQI+ community and what it means to redefine masculinity.
Download the Gender-Based Violence in LGBTQI+ Communities Training Flyer
- NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline is free, confidential, and available in most languages 24/7: call 800-942-6906, text 844-997-2121, and chat
- NYC Anti-Violence Project
- New York State LGBTQI+ IVP Network
- In Our Own Voices
- The Trans Lifeline
- LGBTQI+ Power and Control Wheel