Due to stigma, which results in gross underreporting, clear statistics are difficult to find on LGBTQ domestic violence and sexual abuse. Some LGBTQ leaders and activists we have interviewed have stated that the LGBTQ community has a hard time admitting this exists in our population, as it perpetuates a negative image, that it’s one more thing that “those” people have against them. A lack of supportive resources for treatment, understanding by law enforcement, hospitals, emergency crews, and even clergy, have also helped to keep the reported cases at bay. But domestic violence, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse inside the LGBTQ population is just as, if not more prevalent than in the heterosexual community, and until we can develop a conversation in which the bystander sees the signs, feels comfortable approaching victims, and there are reliable resources for treatment in the LGBTQ population, the stigma and the suffering will remain.
Some sources state that gay and lesbian couples experience domestic violence at the same frequency as heterosexual couples, while other sources state domestic violence among gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals might be higher than among heterosexual individuals, that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are less likely to report domestic violence that has occurred in their intimate relationships than heterosexual couples are, or that lesbian couples experience domestic violence less than heterosexual couples do. By contrast, some researchers commonly assume that lesbian couples experience domestic violence at the same rate as heterosexual couples, and have been more cautious when reporting domestic violence among gay male couples.
A 1999 analysis of nineteen studies of partner abuse concluded that “[r]esearch suggests that lesbians and gay men are just as likely to abuse their partners as heterosexual men.” In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the 2010 results of their National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and report that 44% of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. This same report states that 26% of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. A 2013 study showed that 40.4% of self-identified lesbians and 56.9% of bisexual women have reported being victims of partner violence. In 2014, national surveys indicated that anywhere from 25-50% of gay and bisexual males have experienced physical violence from a partner.
Gay and lesbian relationships have been identified as a risk factor for abuse in certain populations. LGBT people in some parts of the world have very little legal protection from DV, because engaging in homosexual acts is itself prohibited by the “sodomy laws” of those jurisdictions (as of 2014, same-sex sexual acts are punishable by imprisonment in 70 countries and by death in other 5 countries) and these legal prohibitions prevent LGBT victims of DV from reporting the abuse to authorities.In the face of the 2003 Supreme Court decision, 13 US states have refused to remove sodomy laws from legislation as of 2013.
People in same-sex relationships face special obstacles in dealing with the issues that some researchers have labeled “the double closet”. A 1997 Canadian study by Mark W. Lehman suggests similarities include frequency (approximately one in every four couples); manifestations (emotional, physical, financial, etc.); co-existent situations (unemployment, substance abuse, low self-esteem); victims’ reactions (fear, feelings of helplessness, hypervigilance); and reasons for staying (love, can work it out, things will change, denial). Studies conducted by Emory University in 2014 identified 24 trigger for partner violence through web-based surveys, ranging from drugs and alcohol to safe-sex discussions. A general theme of power and control seems to underlie abuse in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
At the same time, significant differences, unique issues, and deceptive myths are typically present. Lehman, regarding his 1997 survey, points to added discrimination and fears that gay and lesbian individuals may face. This includes potential dismissal by police and some social services, a lack of support from peers, fear of attracting negative stigma toward the gay community, the impact of HIV/AIDS status in keeping partners together (due to health care insurance/access, or guilt), threat of outing, and encountering supportive services that are targeted, or structured for the needs of heterosexual women, and may not meet the needs of gay men or lesbians. This service structure can make LGBTQ victims feel even more isolated and misunderstood than they may already because of their minority status. Lehman, however, stated that “due to the limited number of returned responses and non-random sampling methodology the findings of this work are not generalizable beyond the sample” of 32 initial respondents and final 10 who completed the more in-depth survey. Particularly, sexual stressors and HIV/AIDS status have emerged as significant differences in same-sex partner violence.
Domestic violence (also domestic abuse, spousal abuse, emotional abuse, intimate partner violence, battering or family violence) is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person in a domestic context against another, such as in marriage or cohabitation. Intimate partner violence is domestic violence by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner. Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse that results in disfigurement or death
Globally, a wife or female partner is more commonly the victim of domestic violence, though the victim can also be the male partner, or both partners may engage in abusive or violent behavior, or the victim may act in self-defense or retaliation. Whereas women in the developed world who experience domestic violence are openly encouraged to report it to the authorities, it has been argued that domestic violence against men is most often unreported because of social pressure against such reporting, with those that do facing social stigma regarding their perceived lack of machismo and other denigrations of their masculinity.
Domestic violence often occurs because the abuser believes that abuse is justified and acceptable, and may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse that condone violence. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country. There may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power, insufficient financial resources, fear, shame or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence show dysregulated aggression from an early age that may later contribute to continuing the legacy of abuse when they reach adulthood.