Safe + Sound Blog

Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ+ Community

By Jessica Skultety
SPEAK Community Outreach Associate

June is Pride Month, which signals celebrations throughout the world in support and recognition of the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning +) community. Even more, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Pride traditions in honor of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 in New York City.

While many in-person Pride events have been cancelled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride Month itself isn’t cancelled – we can still celebrate and educate! Read more about the origins and history of Pride Month here, on the Library of Congress website.

Pride Month also allows for a space to create more awareness about domestic violence in the LGBTQ+ community. We can all work together to empower survivors to seek help and safety.

By reading this, educating yourself, and sharing with others, you help Safe+Sound Somerset reach a high risk and often overlooked community and achieve its mission of ending domestic violence once and for all.


The Facts


Question: Does abuse happen in the LGBTQ+ community?

Answer: Yes. Unfortunately, there is a widespread societal belief that abuse and violence don’t occur in LGBTQ+ relationships. In fact, studies show:

The LGBTQ+ community experiences domestic violence at equal or higher rates compared to heterosexual people.

Question: Why is the LGBTQ+ community at high risk for abuse and violence?

Answer: The LGBTQ+ community has long struggled with acceptance and equality worldwide. This can complicate someone’s own perception of their personal power, leading them to seek power in unhealthy ways, or feel like they don’t deserve equal treatment in intimate relationships. LGBTQ+ individuals may also have additional fears, vulnerabilities, and barriers to seeking help that an abuser can take advantage of and manipulate.

Sources: 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey


Power and Control in Abusive LGBTQ+ Relationships


Question: Are there differences in how abuse might look in LGBTQ+ relationships, as compared to heterosexual relationships?

Answer: Yes. Although all abusive relationships are based on one person purposefully gaining power and control over the other, there are certain manipulative and fear-inducing behaviors that are specific to LGBTQ+ relationships. For example, threatening to “out” someone, or disclose someone’s LGBTQ+ identity to others, is a well-known tactic. This threatens a person’s immediate physical and emotional safety and can isolate them further. Some other examples can be found in the graphic below.


Barriers to Safety


Question: Why don’t people experiencing abuse just leave? Is this different for the LGBTQ+ community?

Answer: There are many reasons why people don’t leave. For example: they love the person, they rely on them financially and/or emotionally, they don’t want their kids to be without a parent, they think it will get better (though abuse often worsens).

The way society treats members of the LGBTQ+ community can make it even more difficult to seek services or end an abusive relationship. 

The LGBTQ+ community faces unique barriers to seeking help, including:

  • For some, the need to “out” themselves (explained in the above “Power and Control” section) if they seek services or want to leave a relationship
  • Beliefs that domestic violence simply doesn’t occur in LGBTQ+ relationships – sometimes abusers use this as a way to control their partners further
  • Fear that exposing a problem such as abuse will reverse societal progress made towards LGBTQ+ equality and acceptance
  • Fear of homophobia from service providers and law enforcement, including possible past negative interactions
  • Domestic violence shelters and services are often female only (though not Safe+Sound Somerset!), which may exclude men and transgender individuals
  • Distrust of the legal system and its ability to work in favor of LGBTQ+ people

Safe+Sound Somerset is working to reduce these barriers. By helping us continue the conversation in different communities, we can reduce the obstacles that many LGBTQ+ people face in seeking help, spread knowledge about the warning signs of abusive relationships, and empower all survivors. Join us and share this information with a friend today.

Safe+Sound Somerset is Somerset County’s lead domestic violence organization, and we are safe and open to all. Call or text our 24/7 hotline at 866-685-1122 for information, supportive listening, and safety planning.