Domestic abuse in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
Domestic abuse in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community is a serious issue. About 25% of LGBT people experience violent or threatening relationships with (ex-)partners which is similar rates as the heterosexual community.
The problem is underreported. Those involved in same-gender abuse are often afraid of revealing their sexual orientation or the nature of their relationship.
There are many parallels between LGBT people's experience of domestic abuse and that of heterosexual women, including the impact on the abused partner and the types of abuses such as emotional bullying, physical aggression, threats to harm the victim or other loved ones, social isolation, control of finances, extreme jealousy.
However, there are a number of aspects that are unique to LGBT domestic abuse.
'Outing' as a method of control
The abuser may threaten to ‘out' the victim to friends, family, religious communities, co-workers, and others as a method of control.. The abuser may use the close-knit dynamic of the gay and lesbian community and the lack of support for LGBT people outside the community to further pressure the victim into compliance.
LAGLO Awareness Video
The following videos stem from an initiative in Buckinghamshire.
Domestic Abuse affects all parts of the community, but for a variety of reasons abuse within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community is under-reported. In this short film, PC Brydon from Aylesbury Police Station talks to us about the signs of abuse within LGBT relationships and how Thames Valley Police can help.
There is no excuse for Domestic Abuse towards any person and in any relationship at any time. Watch the YouTube video to find out more about LGBT Domestic Violence and the signs of abuse. Local support agencies are listed if you need help.
Abuse associated with sexual orientation or gender identity
For many people, their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes associated with the abuse so that they blame the abuse on being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. So they may feel that they are experiencing this abuse because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or that if they weren't lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender that they wouldn't be experiencing it. This can therefore fuel feelings of internalised homo/bi/transphobia.
Domestic abuse isn't well recognised in the LGBT community
There hasn't been much information or discussion in the LGBT communities about domestic abuse. Most information on domestic abuse relates to experiences of heterosexual women. This lack of understanding means that some people may not:
- believe it happens in LGBT relationships
- recognise their experience as domestic abuse if it happens to them
- know how to respond if they see domestic abuse being experienced by their friends or family.
Confidentiality and isolation within the LGBT communities
LGBT communities are often hidden and can rely on friends and relationships as support within the local community. This is often compounded when living in smaller towns and rural areas and can make it difficult for the abused partner to seek help. They may feel ashamed about the abuse, or their partner may have tried to turn others in the community against them. An abusive partner may isolate their partner from contact with the LGBT community by preventing them reading any LGBT papers/magazines etc or attending LGBT venues or events and preventing them seeing friends from within the community. This can be especially true for people in their first same-sex relationship who may not have had much contact with the LGBT community before the relationship began.
It can be hard for LGBT domestic violence victims to seek help because they may not want to disclose their sexuality to police or other organisations. Because of the general homo/transphobia in modern societies, LGBT victims of partner violence may be concerned about giving gay and lesbian relationships a ‘bad name' and may refuse to speak up about the abuse they're suffering. When people do seek help, police and other agencies may misunderstand the situation as a fight between two men or women rather than a violent intimate relationship. Therefore LGBT people may be discouraged from disclosing the sex of their partner if service providers use language which reflect heterosexual assumptions. For example, if it is a woman and she has not disclosed her partner's sex, it is inappropriate to ask about her boyfriend/husband or use the word ‘he' in reference to her partner. If her abuser is a woman she may feel that she cannot disclose this or that it mustn't count.
Here is an example of asking someone if they are experiencing domestic abuse which is inclusive:
“There are some routine questions we ask all our clients/service users, as many of them are in relationships where they are either afraid their partners may hurt them or afraid of challenging their partner. Is this a concern for you? Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?”
The example above does not use gendered language, any wording which has been approved by an organisation for encouraging disclosure of domestic abuse could be used with simple changes made from references of 'he/she' to 'your partner'.
What the victim can do if they are experiencing domestic abuse
The victim will not stop their partner's abuse: only the abuser can do that. However there are things the victim can do to increase their own safety. A safety plan can help the victim protect themselves against future abuse whether they stay in the relationship, or leave.
They have the right to be protected from domestic abuse just as anyone else does. They can use any of the general support services listed on this site to find the support and advice they need. However, some people might prefer to seek advice from a specialist support agency like those listed below. The victim does not have to give their name. The support agencies will be able to explain options and help the victim plan safely.
Local LGBT support in Thames Valley
Oxfordshire LGBT website with advice and support
Bucks LGBT website with advice and support
The Supernova Project is a global effort that aims to contribute to addressing abuse within the LGBTQIA+ communities*. We want to empower queer people around the world who are experiencing domestic abuse by providing a queer friendly platform of information and support.
*We currently do not have guides for all groups in the LGBTQIA+ community, however this is our long term aim. If you would like to help us build these upcoming guides and get them out to the rest of the community, please get in touch.
Scotland's LBGT Domestic Abuse Project
Scotland's LBGT Domestic Abuse Project website is for both lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who are or think they may be experiencing domestic abuse, and service providers who support LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse.
Galop- National Shoutline for LGBT
Welcome to Galop, the leading LGBT anti-violence & abuse charity. We give advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. We also support lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system. We are a completely independent community-led group. Anything you tell us is confidential, and you can contact us anonymously if you choose.
National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Domestic Abuse Helpline
10am – 8pm Monday
10am – 5pm Tuesday**
10am – 5pm Wednesday
10am – 8pm Thursday
1pm – 5pm Friday
**1pm-5pm Tuesday is a trans specific service.
If you have experienced hate crime, domestic abuse or sexual violence in London, you can also call the Galop shoutline on 020 704 6767.
*Call the number cheapest for you: 0300 numbers are billed as 01 and 02 landline numbers and are usually included in mobile phone package minutes. 0800 numbers are free from landlines and included in some mobile provider inclusive minutes.
London Lesbian and Gay switchboard
The LLGS provides information, support and a referral service for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people from all backgrounds throughout the United Kingdom. Their service is confidential and non-judgemental. They offer support and initial advice to all callers on any problems they are facing, and will suggest sources of more specialist advice and counselling.
Mens Advice Line
The Men's Advice Line is a confidential helpline for men who experience violence from their partners or ex-partners.
Tel: 0808 801 0327
Support for men who have been sexually abused. Men affected by sexual violence are not lone individuals. They are members of families, partnerships and communities. It is for this reason that Mankind's services are open to anyone affected by the sexual assault of males.
Tel: 01823 334244
- LGBT power and control wheel (pdf format, 46.9 Kb)
- Gender role implications on same-sex intimate partner abuse (pdf format, 224 Kb)
- Housing options for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgeneder people experiencing domestic abuse (pdf format 522 Kb)
- LGBT, inclusive not abusive: domestic and sexual abuse - 2009 Thames Valley conference (pdf format 4.2 Mb)
- A contradiction in terms?: A gendered analysis of same sex domestic abuse (pdf, 77 Kb)
- Trifold leaflet - safety plan
- Trifold leaflet (pdf format, 239 Kb) - specific to Buckinghamshire but with useful general information
- "A LGBT relationship does not mean..." poster (pdf format, 482 Kb) (with Buckinghamshire contact details)
- Postcard for Rainbow Ribbon Campaign "Break the silence"
- Domestic violence: a resource for