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The Truth about Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships

June is Pride Month — a month of celebration, protest and political action for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. The first Pride marches began in 1970 in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. Today, Pride Month encompasses a variety of activities, from parades, festivals and carnivals to political protests. It is in the spirit of Pride Month that we kick off a series of blog posts designed to highlight issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.

When most people think of domestic violence, the picture that may come to mind is of the stereotypical heterosexual relationship where the man is abusive towards the woman. Yet in reality, domestic violence occurs in LGBTQ+ relationships at about the same rate as in heterosexual relationships. That’s according to a 2010 study from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report found that 43.8% of lesbian women, 61.1% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced sexual or domestic violence by an intimate partner at least once during their lifetime. The same study found that 26% of gay men, 37.3% of bisexual men and 29% of heterosexual men experienced sexual or domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Understanding that violence in LGBTQ+ relationships is just as common — if not more common — than violence in heterosexual relationships is fundamental to making sure that ALL victims of violence get the services that they need. Perhaps more importantly, acknowledging that domestic violence is a problem in the LGBTQ+ community will make it easier for our friends and family to seek help and understanding from their loved ones.

Although there is increasing acceptance in our society, many LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination. This often includes family and friends distancing themselves when a person comes out — a type of isolation that can make it more difficult to seek help when in an abusive relationship. In addition, cultural judgment of LGBTQ+ relationships may put pressure on individuals to conceal anything that could be perceived as negative — including abuse. These factors can make it easier for abusers to hide his or her their actions, and more difficult for a victim to get help.

It may also be challenging for victims to find community-based nonprofits that are not only inclusive and welcoming, but that can provide services that recognize the unique nature of domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships. At Blackburn Center, we provide services to ALL victims of violence, including all members of the LGBTQ+ community, with a trauma-informed approach that focuses on empowering victims.

This Pride Month, let’s focus on awareness and activism. For domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships, the first step is recognizing that not only does it occur — it is just as common as in heterosexual relationships. Understanding and supporting our LGBTQ+ community is vital — not just during Pride Month, but throughout the year.

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