What are the unique barriers to finding help that LGBTQ victims may face?
LGBTQ victims of domestic violence may have to overcome homophobia and/or transphobia 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. Victims may feel like they have to lie to the shelter in order to hide their identity, or may be forced by the shelter to “come out” (tell the shelter about their sexual orientation) in order to get help. Additionally, not all service providers may be fully aware of issues specific to LGBTQ relationships. This lack of knowledge may cause providers to say or do homophobic or transphobic things.
- Discrimination from law enforcement. LGBTQ victims often have to deal with cultural myths when interacting with law enforcement. For instance, some law enforcement officers may believe that abuse in same-sex relationships is mutual (that both partners batter each other), or that abuse cannot occur in same-sex relationships. This myth may result in both the victim and the abuser being arrested if the police are called. An LGBTQ survivor may also be afraid that revealing the abuse will reflect badly on all LGBTQ people or fuel anti-LGBTQ biases.
- Lack of resources for LGBTQ people. Homophobia and transphobia may make it more difficult for LGBTQ people to find housing, employment, or medical care because some states do not make it illegal to discriminate against an LGBTQ person. When a victim cannot access resources, they may be more dependent on abusers. In addition, some states do not allow victims to obtain restraining orders against the 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, they may feel isolated and afraid to leave the relationship. It can be especially difficult for them to find support if the victim lives somewhere where there are already limited support resources for LGBTQ individuals.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 the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.