Domestic and sexual violence can happen to anyone — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. While many aspects of abuse may be similar to abuse suffered by heterosexual victims, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals may face unique situations or challenges if they are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Blackburn Center offers assistance to all victims of domestic and sexual violence, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. If you or someone you love needs help, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-888-832-2272.
Studies show that violence occurs in LGBTQ relationships at the same rate as violence in heterosexual relationships. Regardless, there are unique aspects to domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships, including:
• "Outing" or threatening to out a partner's sexual orientation or gender identity to family, friends, employers, or others.
• Telling the survivor that abusive behavior is a normal part of LGBTQ relationships, or that it cannot be domestic violence because it is occurring between LGBTQ individuals.
• Portraying the violence as mutual and even consensual, especially if the partner attempts to defend against it, or as an expression of masculinity or some other "desirable" trait.
• Interfering with hormones their partner is taking to transition, or forcing their partner to transition.
While it is hard to estimate the number of LGBTQ individuals who have been sexually assaulted in a given year (due to study biases that tend to assume that survivors are heterosexual), it is estimated that people who identify as LGBTQ suffer sexual assaults at either the same rate or a higher rate as those who identify as heterosexual. One explanation for a possible higher rate for sexual assault is that LGBTQ individuals may be targeted for sexual assault as part of hate crimes. LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault have many of the same reactions and fears as any other survivor may have. But they may face additional concerns, including barriers to seeking help. These are some of the issues that may face LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault:
• Fear of prejudice may prevent a person from reporting the crime because they worry that a police officer, hotline worker, doctor, or attorney will judge them because of their sexual orientation. They might feel like people believe they brought the attack on themselves by being LGBTQ.
• Like all survivors, LGBTQ survivors often feel self-blame, shame, fear, anger, and depression.
• LGBTQ survivors may feel ostracized.
• Transgender people may not want to seek hospital care.
• LGBTQ survivors may feel punished for acting outside of society’s prescribed gender roles.
• LGBTQ survivors may be reluctant to tell family and friends who do not approve of their sexual orientation.
• LGBTQ survivors may have privacy concerns within their LGBTQ community.
• LGBTQ survivors who do choose to come forward face a range of difficulties that heterosexual survivors do not face, such as a fear of disclosing their sexual orientation if they are not “out.”
• There may be heterosexism and homophobia in the systems designed to help survivors, which may lead to either overt discrimination against LGBTQ survivors, or an assumption that all survivors are heterosexual.
• The legal system may not recognize same-sex assault in certain jurisdictions.
LGBTQ individuals may be at increased risk for other types of violence, including hate crimes. They may be targeted for crimes of violence due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Studies show that between 20 and 25% of LGBTQ people will experience hate crimes in their lifetime. At Blackburn Center, we provide support and services for all victims of abuse, violence and crime. If you have been affected by an anti-LGBTQ hate crime, please know that we are here for you. Call us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 or 724-836-1122 to talk to someone.
For more resources on LGBTQ issues, please click here.
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