Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

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Domestic Violence and Specific Populations

Domestic violence can affect anyone of any age, race, gender, religion, class or ethnicity. Victims who belong to specific groups experience a unique set of control tactics that may cause additional threats and barriers to getting help.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ)

Victims who identify as LGBTQ face the stigma and stereotypes attached to their sexual orientation or gender expression. Abusive partners may use others’ homophobia against victims by threatening to out them, or by convincing them that they won’t be able to get help. Because of the false belief that women are not abusive, women in same gender relationships might not be believed. This is also the case for men in same-gender relationships because of the myths that abuse is only physical and that men should be able to protect themselves against physical abuse.


Teens who experience dating abuse are in a unique position because of their age. For many, this is their first relationship and they may not realize that jealousy, possessiveness and control are not love. They might also see domestic violence at home, where abuse is normalized. They might be afraid to get an adult involved but not know how to get help on their own. Teens who experience abuse may face negative health consequences for the rest of their lives.

Gang Member Involvement

Victims with partners who belong to a gang may be forced by their abusive partner to commit crimes against their will, often leaving them with a criminal record and making it harder to get help. They may be used as a part of gang initiation as victims of sexual or physical assault, or may be “shared” by other members of the group. They may also be branded with tattoos to show that they “belong” to one or more of the gang members.

Victims of Human Trafficking 

Victims of human trafficking face the same abuse as all victims of domestic violence, and often their abusive partner is the one forcing them  into sexual acts with other people for money or drugs. Their traffickers may target them because they are vulnerable and may use “love” to coerce them into sexual acts with other people. Victims of human trafficking may be isolated, physically assaulted, forced to take drugs, and become financially dependent. Despite the similarities, trafficking victims may have difficulty getting helped because sex work is a crime. Many service providers are not trained to recognize the signs and ask the right questions.

Older Victims of Domestic Violence

Older victims of domestic violence have likely been experiencing domestic violence for many years. As they age, their needs change medically and financially, and their abusers are likely to use these additional needs to control them. Abusers might convince doctors or other family members that victims are not capable of making decisions because of cognitive impairment. Abusers may also steal victims’ Social Security and refuse them medical care.

Military-Related Domestic Violence

Victims connected with the military face special challenges.  Service members and military families often live in closed communities where it may feel difficult for victims to seek help. Service members found to have committed domestic violence may be discharged from the military, so the family’s finances will suffer. Victims of high-ranking service members may have problems getting help, because higher-ranking officers are in charge of the military justice process. Victims who are service members may fear being seen as weak and not able to do their jobs, or fear being demoted to a lower rank.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among service members who have served in combat. Service member victims may feel that their PTSD gets worse as a result of domestic or sexual violence. Victims of service members who were abusive before going into combat may find that the violence becomes worse after the service member returns. Abusive partners may use their PTSD as an excuse for the violence, but PTSD does not make someone who was never abusive into someone who abuses their family members.

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face abuse at extremely high rates due to intellectual and physical needs that may be different from the general population. If they have intellectual disabilities, they may not understand that abuse and control are wrong or may not be able to verbalize the need for help. If they have physical disabilities, their abusive partner might limit their access to others, refuse to get them medical care, or refuse to let them take their medication.

Immigrant Victims

Immigrant victims fear not knowing if they will be sent back to their countries of origin, which they might have fled due to violence. Often, abusers will hold onto victims’ documents or may be the sponsors of their green cards, which can be a powerful method of control. Immigrants may also not understand the laws in America or speak English, putting a barrier between them and service providers or the police. If they fear deportation, they are less likely to call the police.

Additional Resources for Specific Populations: