About Abuse

LGBTQ Victims

August 31, 2009

What are the unique obstacles faced by LGBTQ victims of domestic violence when they reach out for help?

LGBTQ victims of domestic violence may have to overcome homophobia and/or transphobia from service providers when trying to find help for the domestic violence they are experiencing.  Below are some of the most common obstacles:

Lack of focused services. Few domestic violence shelters or organizations offer programs aimed specifically at LGBTQ relationships, so victims may either have to lie about their gender identity or sexual orientation, or decide to come out to the shelter.  Additionally, not all service providers may be fully aware of issues specific to LGBTQ relationships.

Discrimination. LGBTQ victims have to deal with cultural misconceptions such as the belief that abuse in same-sex relationships is mutual (that both partners batter each other) and/or that abuse cannot occur in same-sex relationships.  This misconception often results in dual arrests when LGBTQ victims of abuse call the police to report domestic violence.  Additionally, existing prejudice and myths about the LGBTQ community can make an LGBTQ victim less likely to reveal any problems with his/her relationship because of concern about furthering an already negative view of LGBTQ people and relationships.

Lack of resources for LGBTQ. Homophobia and transphobia may make it more difficult for LGBTQ people to find housing, employment, or medical care, making victims more dependent on abusers.  In addition, some states do not allow victims to obtain restraining orders against their abuser if they are the same gender unless they are/were married.  See Can I get a restraining order against my same-sex partner? for more information.

Isolation. If the victim does not know many other LGBTQ people besides the abuser, s/he may feel isolated and afraid to leave the relationship.  Especially if the victim lives in a small town where there are already limited supports for LGBTQ individuals, it can be even more difficult for him/her to find support.1

Despite these challenges, there are places to find help.  For a list of local and national hotlines and organizations that specialize in LGBTQ domestic violence or are LGBTQ-friendly please see our National Organizations / LGBTQ page.

1 This information has been adapted from information compiled by LAMBDA.