In the last two parts of our Home for the Holidays series, we looked at warning signs and ways to support victims of dating violence, and what to do if you suspect your child is abusive.
In both of these situations, it’s a common bias to think of the victim as a heterosexual girl or woman, and the batterer of a heterosexual boy or man, but dating and domestic violence also occur in same-sex and transgender relationships. In fact, studies show that violence rates may actually be higher in LGBTQ communities.
Warning Signs and Stories
The warning signs of violence are the same in any relationship, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation or any other trait. A boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse may insult and belittle their partner, control finances, display extreme jealousy, attempt to isolate the victim from friends and family, or assault them physically and/or sexually.
An illuminating Atlantic piece on the silent epidemic of same-sex domestic violence shares the personal stories of three survivors, the forms violence took in their relationships and the struggle of recognizing it for what it was.
As all of the personal stories in the article illustrate, regardless of the gender of the victim or abuser, these acts are signs of abuse, but unfortunately for many reasons they may go unreported in same-sex and transgender relationships.
Reasons for Underreporting
One of the main reasons for underreporting is that authorities and even shelters and hotlines may be dismissive, or may not feel like a safe place for LGBTQ teens and adults. The police have historically not been a friend to the gay community, although there are efforts in some U.S. cities to change police actions and attitudes.
Another reason victims remain silent may be a desire to protect the LGBTQ community. With gay marriage only becoming legal at the national level within the last few years, and many gay and transgendered couples still fighting for mainstream legitimacy, there’s a feeling within the community that to acknowledge abuse would bring the wrong kind of attention.
A third reason is common to all victims of abuse: feelings of shame, embarrassment self-blame. Abusers work very hard to undermine the self-worth of their victims to gain control and often blame their partners for their actions. “If you didn’t..” “If you would just…” “I can’t help it when you…” Add societal pressures and norms around sexuality, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for victim-shaming and silence.
So What Can You Do?
If you see warning signs of violence in a friend or family member’s relationship, don’t ignore them just because they don’t fit a stereotype. If they confide in you, be supportive, let them know you’re concerned and ask what you can do to help. Listen, and give them control. You can also connect them with the following LGBTQ-friendly support organizations.
Love is Respect Hotline
1-866-331-99474 (24/7) or Text “loveis” 22522
Hotline 520-624-0348 or 1-800-553-9387 Bilingual 24/7
The Anti-Violence Project
Hotline 212-714-1124 Bilingual 24/7
GLBT National Help Center
Hotline 1800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743) or chat online
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 24/7 or online counseling
Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline