Domestic Violence and the LGBTQIA+ Community

LGBTQIA+ community members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their cis and heterosexual counterparts–yet they face significant barriers to seeking help. In West Virginia, for example, people can still be evicted or denied housing because they are (or are suspected to be) LGBTQIA+. That this sort of bias persists in our legal code leads to low levels of confidence in the effectiveness of the legal system in providing help.Hands forming the symbol of a heart, rainbow colors

In fact, nearly half of LGBTQIA+ survivors do not report the violence they experience to police because they believe law enforcement will not help them and services are not designed for them. A prior experience of being bullied or abused may also make LGBTQIA+ victims of domestic violence less likely to see help. When the abuse is reported, LGBTQIA+ survivors can be met with legal responses that are ineffective–or worse, further victimizing. Biased or poorly-trained officers can add to the abuse by misgendering LGBTQIA+ survivors. And for a large percentage of survivors, police may miscategorize the intimate partner violence as violence from a stranger rather than an intimate partner. The correct classification is important because the eligibility for some resources–such as housing or orders of protection–can rely on police reports affirming that the violence was between intimate partners.

Lesbian and bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at significantly higher rates (respectively 43.8% and 61.1%) than heterosexual women at 35%. Other factors increase these already large disparities. For instance, Black LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black–and LGBTQIA+ victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance. Trans children are particularly likely to experience domestic abuse.

Three people smile beneath a rainbow umbrella. They are dressed in bright colors.

Unique Barriers Experienced by LGBTQIA+ People

LGBTQIA+ individuals who are experiencing intimate partner violence may not seek help because they fear potential homophobia from police, service providers, or even from non-LGBTQ domestic violence victims with whom they may be housed. Transgender individuals may fear they won’t be housed appropriately in shelters at all.

For LGBTQIA+ People Experiencing Domestic Violence

Additional Resources for LGBTQIA+ Survivors of Domestic Violence

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
“CenterLink is an international nonprofit organization and member-based association of LGBTQ centers and other LGBTQ organizations serving their local and regional communities.”

Community United Against Violence (CUAV)
“Founded in 1979, Community United Against Violence (CUAV) works to build the power of LGBTQ communities to transform violence and oppression. We support the healing and leadership of those impacted by abuse and mobilize our broader communities to replace cycles of trauma with cycles of safety and liberation. As part of the larger social justice movement, CUAV works to create truly safe communities where everyone can thrive.”

“FORGE is a national transgender and SOFFA (Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies) organization that focuses on issues related to aging and violence.”

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
“GLSN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.”

Human Rights Campaign
“The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.”

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission
“The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission is a leading international organization dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

Lambda Legal
“LAMBDA is a non-profit, gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgender agency dedicated to reducing homophobia, inequality, hate crimes, and discrimination by encouraging self-acceptance, cooperation, and non-violence.”

LGBT National Help Center
The LGBT National Help Center provides “free and confidential telephone and internet peer-counseling, information and local resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning callers throughout the United States.”

Love Is Respect
“Love is respect is the national resource to disrupt and prevent unhealthy relationships and intimate partner violence by empowering young people [including LGBTQIA+ young people] through inclusive and equitable education, support, and resources.” 

National Center for Lesbian Rights
“With a commitment to racial and economic justice and our community’s most vulnerable, NCLR is a leader at the forefront of advancing civil and human rights for LGBTQ individuals and their families through impact litigation, public policy, and public education.”

National Center for Transgender Equality
“The National Center for Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice.”

National LGBTQ Institute on IPV
“The Institute builds collaborations across LGBTQ Anti Violence and Domestic Violence fields, leveraging the strengths of each to improve impact. We increase public awareness and enhance state, local and national efforts to prevent and address LGBTQ intimate partner violence. We know the power of visibility, solidarity and real access to civil protections.”

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
“The National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging is the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center focused on improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older adults, their families, and caregivers.”

The Network/La Red
“The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, kink, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, our work aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We strengthen our communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services.”

The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
“To support queer & trans survivors in reconnecting to their self-determination through advocacy-based counseling and community education. “

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
“PFLAG is a national support, education and advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, their families, friends and allies. With 200,000 members and supporters, and local affiliates in more than 500 communities across the U.S. and abroad, PFLAG is the largest grassroots-based family organization of its kind.”

Trans Youth Family Allies
“TYFA empowers children and families by partnering with educators, service providers and communities, to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected. We envision a society free of suicide and violence in which ALL children are respected and celebrated.”

Project Rainbow/ Rainbow House
“Project Rainbow is a nonprofit organization based in Monongalia County, WV. Since its inception, the project has been curated to serve unsheltered LGBTQ+ individuals to help them better navigate the housing system safely and compassionately. Project Rainbow has opened The Rainbow House to serve this community and meet this goal. Although the shelter is our community’s most urgent and immediate need, Project Rainbow recognizes that much more work must be done. We advocate for the individuals we serve and the Appalachian LGBTQ+ community. We work closely with partners in the housing, health, and mental health care systems to find solutions for our guests and make these systems more accessible for our target population.”

Transgender Law Center
“At the Transgender Law Center, we work with community members and allies to make California a state in which we can all fully and freely express our gender identities. On our site, you’ll find one of the nation’s most comprehensive collections of resources on transgender law, and information about our innovative projects.”

The Trevor Project
“The Trevor Project’s mission is to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.” They provide confidential assistance by trained counselors via chat, text, or voice call. Get help from The Trevor Project.