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UPDATED December 4, 2015

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Information on domestic violence in the LGBTQ community.

Forms of abuse

back to topWhat forms of abuse are unique to LGBTQ victims?

Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can occur in any type of relationship, but some other types of abuse happen to LGBTQ individuals.  Here are some of the ways that abusers gain power and control over LGBTQ victims:

  • Threatening to “out” the victim or reveal his/her sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Telling the victim that no one will help him/her or that s/he deserves the abuse because of his/her gender identity or sexual orientation;
  • Denying the victim’s identity by saying that at some point his/her behavior or identity did not conform to the abuser's definition of any label the victim chooses to use (e.g. Saying to a man, "You've had a relationship with a woman, so you're not really gay.");
  • Telling the victim that the abuse is a “normal” part of a same-sex relationship;
  • Telling the victim that the abuse cannot be domestic violence because it is taking place between LGBTQ individuals;
  • Claiming that the abuse is an expression of some "desirable" trait. (e.g., "This is just me being butch, which is why you like me.")*

* This information has been adapted from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs - see "Special Issues in LGBTQ Violence."

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back to topWhat forms of abuse are unique to transgender victims?

In addition to “traditional” forms of abuse, trans people are vulnerable to emotional abuse and bullying by the abusive partner because of their non-conforming gender identity and/or sexual orientation.  Here are some of the behaviors abusers may use to gain power and control over transgender victims:

  • Emotionally belittling the trans person by calling the victim "it" or anything other than the victim’s preferred pronoun;
  • Making fun of how the trans person’s body looks and/or how it does or doesn’t match the victim's gender identity;
  • Accusing the trans person of not being a "real" man/woman;
  • Ridiculing the trans person's gender identity and/or sexual orientation, perhaps by using slurs, offensive pronouns, or insults;
  • Denying the trans person access to medical treatment and/or hormones by hiding or discarding medication, preventing the trans person from seeing the doctor (i.e. taking away the car or withholding money), or creating other barriers that prevent the trans person from receiving medical attention;
  • Hiding or throwing away accessories or clothing items that a trans person uses so that the victim's body and gender identity match;
  • Touching parts of the trans person’s body in an unwanted way or calling body parts by terms the abuser knows the trans person does not like;
  • Justifying sexual abuse by saying that "this is how real men/women like sex;"
  • Threatening to "out" the victim to family, friends, co-workers, landlords, law enforcement, or anyone else without the victim’s consent;
  • Telling the trans person that the victim would “make the LGBTQ community look bad” by coming forward with the abuse;
  • Forbidding the trans person from revealing that the victim is transgender or from talking about issues specific to the transgender community with others.*

Despite these challenges, there are places where transgender victims of abuse can find help.  For a list of local and national resources that specialize in transgender domestic violence or are LGBTQ-friendly please see our National Organizations / LGBTQ page.

* This information has been adapted from information compiled by FORGE - see "Transgender/SOFFA: Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Resource Sheet."

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back to topWhat unique tactics are used by transgender abusers to gain power and control over their partners?

Abusers who identify as transgender might use their sexual identity and orientation as a way to manipulate their partner, regardless of the partner’s gender identity.  For example:

  • Using hormone supplements are an excuse for violent behavior;
  • Claiming that the victim's behavior or identity "undermines," "suppresses," or is "disrespectful" of the abuser's identity;
  • Claiming that the victim is "not being supportive" if s/he questions the timing and/or cost of the abuser’s transition;
  • Denying that the abuser's transition may affect the life of the victim; and/or
  • Claiming that the abuser’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation is somehow “better” than the victim's.*

* See FORGE's "Transgender/SOFFA: Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Resource Sheet"

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back to topHIV/AIDS-related abuse

The presence of HIV/AIDS in an abusive relationship (either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship) creates its own unique set of challenges and can prove to be an additional obstacle to getting help.  An abuser may use a victim's HIV-positive (HIV+) status against him/her, and the stress of abuse can worsen a victim's health.*  A victim may also be dependent on an abuser to access necessary medical care.  Alternatively, an HIV-positive abuser may use his/her HIV status as a way of gaining control over the victim.

Here are some behaviors that abusers use to gain power and control over an HIV-positive (HIV+) victim:

  • Threatening to reveal a victim's HIV+ status to family, friends, co-workers, landlords, or in a custody case;
  • Making a victim feel guilty about the HIV+ status of his/her children;
  • Belittling a victim over his/her HIV+ status (e.g., telling the victim that no one will want him/her because of his/her HIV+ status);
  • Using the victim's HIV+ status as an excuse for violent behavior;**
  • Using a victim's HIV+ status as an excuse to isolate him/her from others and to take control of the victim's finances, making the victim more dependent on the abuser;
  • Withholding, hiding or throwing away medicine, cancelling medical appointments or denying the victim access to medical care.*

Here are some behaviors that HIV-positive (HIV+) abusers use to gain power and control over a victim:

  • Manipulating a victim into believing that the abuser's health will get worse if the victim leaves;
  • Blaming the victim for any negative changes in the abuser's health;
  • Infecting or threatening to infect a victim to intimidate him/her into staying;*
  • Faking illness in order to get a victim to stay or to return if s/he has already left;**
  • Forcing the victim to do sexual acts against his/her will that put the victim at risk for contracting HIV or threatening to commit these acts;
  • Purposefully trying to infect the victim under the theory that if the victim is also infected, there is a better chance that s/he won't leave the abuser.

* This information has been adapted from information compiled by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs - see "HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence."
** This information has been adapted from information compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence - see "Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS."

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