Domestic Violence in the GLBT Community

Did you know?

According to the most recent CDC survey on violence in relationships, sexual minority respondents reported levels of intimate partner violence at rates equal to or higher than those of heterosexuals. 

44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

4 in 10 gay men (1.1 million men) and nearly half of all bisexual men in the US have been victimized by a sexually violent act at some point.

1 in 8 lesbian women and 46% of bisexual women have been raped in their lifetime, as compared to 17% of heterosexual women.


The Signs

A common fallacy in today’s society is that gay men and lesbian women do not have issues of violence in their relationships. In fact, the rate of domestic violence in same-sex relationships is equal to, and sometimes higher, the rates found in heterosexual ones. There are many ways that an abuser may try to control his or her partner, and often times the abuse is more than just physical. Common threats include telling the survivor’s contacts about his or her sexual orientation, threatening to alienate their partner from their community, and even “outing” a spouse to their children if they share custody.

Many times, survivors of sexual or domestic abuse do not report the events. In the GLBT community, this under-reported abuse is considerably higher. Some reasons people do not report abuse include fear of future violence as a repercussion, increased level of abuse if their abuser becomes angry, fear of being outed, loss of financial support, and loss of dignity.

The Types

Abuse is about power and the ability to control another person, but domestic abuse is conducted under the cover of a loving, safe situation. Most abusers are male but domestic abuse can be conducted by anyone. All relationships are affected by differences in the control of power; in an abusive relationship, this control is used to negatively impact one partner. Despite what the abuser says, he or she is not interested in the well-being of his or her partner. There are many ways that domestic violence can present itself, including physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and identity-based abuse.

Physical and sexual abuse are what is most commonly thought of; however, it may not be what you think it is. Sexual abuse occasionally presents itself as one partner withholding sexual intimacy in order to gain another reward.

Emotional abuse often occurs as verbal and non-verbal statements that make the other partner feel less positive about him or herself. An abuser may say, “You should love me because there is no way anyone else would ever love you.”

Financial abuse occurs when the abuser controls his or her partner’s spending ability, often making escape difficult due to limited access to money.

What to Do

Safety is the most important concern to address. After ensuring that you are physically safe, you need to seek help legally, mentally, and physically. See your doctor to have an exam to care for your physical needs. Therapy is strongly recommended, however couples therapy is rarely suggested in an abusive relationship, since the abuser still has an opportunity to exert control over the victim. An abuser may attempt to justify his or her actions with past events, however abuse is never justified. You may need to seek legal consultation to ensure that you are protected from future harm.

Next, get support. Contact the Anti-Violence Project of the LI GLBT Center (631.665.2300) for free, confidential counseling, advocacy, and support.


about the author: William R. Blazey, D.O. is an assistant professor of Family Medicine at NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine