As we continue to look at increasing awareness around domestic violence, it is important to highlight communities that often overlooked. Today, we turn our focus to the LGBTQIA+ community. Research indicates that the prevalence of intimate partner violence among the LGBTQIA+ community is as high or higher than the general population.
However, unlike the general population, the LGBTQIA+ community experiences marked differences in both the manner of domestic violence they experience and the barriers to help they face. Acknowledging these differences can be hugely beneficial in ending the cycle of abuse.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EXPERIENCES UNIQUE TO THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY
- Threatening to out the other partner: If one partner is not out yet or only out to selective people, the other partner may threaten to out them against their wishes. This is seen as a form of abuse, particularly if doing so could put them in potential danger (i.e. outing them to co-workers who are openly homophobic).
- Judging past/present sexual activity or “slut-shaming”: Verbal abuse may include shaming language around a partner’s expression of sexuality (i.e. “You’ve been with so many people before me, how can I trust you to be faithful?”).
- “Othering” the other partner or refusing to honor their gender identity: In particular in partners where one identifies as trans, the other partner may refuse to use the correct pronouns or name of the abused partner, or may use language that makes them feel like they are “other” and should be ashamed (i.e. “You don’t get it, I’m the NORMAL one in the relationship!”).
BARRIERS UNIQUE TO THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY SEEKING HELP
- General homophobia/transphobia/queerphobia: The reality is that the LGBTQIA+ regularly experiences acts of fear and hatred simply for existing. In seeking help, particularly in areas that are known to be hostile to them, the LGBTQIA+ person risks facing these phobias. Often, this is enough to keep them from seeking services.
- Fear of being outed: Just as this fear can be used as an abuse tactic, it can be a barrier to seeking services. If a person is not out or selectively out, they may fear that seeking services will lead to having to be more open about their identity, a decision which should be based on their choice alone and not on their need to seek help.
- Lack of services or fear of being believed/abandoned by current services: There is a general lack of services targeting the LGBTQIA+ community seeking help for domestic violence. In addition, the services that already exist for domestic violence, such as shelters and law enforcement, routinely exhibit covert or even overt acts of homophobia/transphobia. Law enforcement agencies may not take a gay man’s claim of abuse seriously, or homeless shelters may refuse to accept a trans woman.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and you need help, there are some options to pursue! Here in the Kansas City area, we have the Kansas City Anti- Violence Project which is specifically set up to aid the LGBTQ community with matter of domestic abuse. If that feels intimidating, it would be a good first step to start with an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist. In general, LGBT abuse survivors find individual therapists to be particularly helpful, with 90% of those who have spoken with a therapist saying so.
Here at Heartland Therapy Connection, we are a group of trauma-informed, LGBTQIA+ friendly therapists who would love to help you in your journey. Give us a call today at (816) 287-0252 to set up an appointment with one of us today!