Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined as any behaviour by a intimate (ex)partner(s) that causes physical, sexual, or psychological, social harm (Word Health Organization, 2012). IPV can affect individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, LGBTQ individuals face unique challenges and risks related to IPV. This blog will briefly explore IPV among the LGBTQ community, including the prevalence, types of abuse, biopsychosocial impact, and barriers/facilitators to accessing services.
Prevalence of IPV among LGBTQ Individuals
Research has shown that IPV occurs at similar or higher rates among LGBTQ individuals compared to women in heterosexual relationships. A meta-analysis of 20 studies found that 45% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women reported experiencing IPV in their lifetime, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. Among gay and bisexual men, the lifetime prevalence of IPV was 26% to 37% compared to 14% for heterosexual men. (Johnson et al, 2014, Tesla et al, 2014).
Pre-determinants for Being an LGBTQ IPV Victim
Several factors increase the risk of IPV among LGBTQ individuals, including stigma and discrimination, lack of legal protection, and barriers to accessing services. For example, research has shown that LGBTQ individuals who experienced discrimination or violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity were more likely to experience IPV (Testa et al, 2014).
Types of Abuse LGBTQ Victims Are Subject To
LGBTQ individuals may experience similar types of abuse as heterosexual individuals, including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and stalking. However, some forms of abuse may be specific to the LGBTQ community, such as outing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2018).
The Impact on LGBTQ Victims’ Biopsychosocial Wellbeing – Short/Long Term
IPV can have serious short and long-term effects on the biopsychosocial wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals. These effects can include physical injuries, mental health issues, substance abuse, and even suicide (Messinger & Kubicek, 2017). Studies have shown that LGBTQ individuals who experience IPV are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, with some evidence suggesting that these impacts are more severe than those experienced by heterosexual women subjected to IPV (Reuter et al, 2017).LGBTQ individuals (particularly gay/bisexual men and trans women) who experience IPV may also be at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, due to the increased risk of unprotected sex and lack of access to healthcare (Stephenson & Finneran, 2017).
LGBTQ Relationships Cultural Factors for IPV
Cultural factors within LGBTQ intimate partner relationships can influence IPV. For example, some individuals may believe that same-sex relationships are not “real” relationships and therefore, may not take IPV as seriously (Ristock, 2003). Additionally, some individuals may be hesitant to seek help or report IPV due to fears of being outed or facing discrimination within the LGBTQ community (Ristock, 2003). These factors intertwin with barriers that may discourage LGBTQ IPV victims from seeking support.
Barriers and Facilitators for Engaging with Services
Barriers to accessing services for LGBTQ individuals who experience IPV include fear of discrimination or stigma, lack of fair judicial process, and a lack of LGBTQ-inclusive services (Tesla et al, 2018). LGBTQ individuals may avoid seeking help from law enforcement or healthcare professionals due to past experiences of discrimination, harassment, or abuse by those who are supposed to protect them. In addition, LGBTQ people may also be hesitant to seek help due to concerns about confidentiality, lack of knowledge about available services, or fear of losing custody of their children (Stemple & Flores, 2018). Facilitators for accessing services include access to LGBTQ-specific services, supportive and knowledgeable staff, and a safe and inclusive environment for reporting abuse.
IPV is a serious issue that affects individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ individuals may face unique challenges and risks related to IPV, including higher rates of IPV and barriers to accessing services. It is important to continue to increase awareness of IPV among the LGBTQ community, improve access to LGBTQ-inclusive services, and address cultural factors that contribute to IPV.
LGBTQ IPV Online Lecture- 19th April 2023
There are practical actions that organisations can do to improve support for LGBTQ victims. We are providing an LGBTQ IPV two-hour lecture which will look more in depth at LGBQ IPV prevalence, types of abuse, health impact and barriers/facilitators for disclosing and service support. We strongly believe in accessible learning, to this end ticket are only £10 per person and a percentage is being donated to charity. The talk is being provided by specialist researcher Dr S Maxwell. If you cannot make this event, please let us know and we would happily arrange another time/date.
Johnson, M. J., et al. (2014). Intimate partner violence and depressive symptoms among heterosexual and homosexual couples. Journal of Family Violence, 29(7), 741-752. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-014-9639-1
Messinger, A. M., & Kubicek, K. (2017). Addressing intimate partner violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities: A review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 18(5), 532-541. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838016650188
National Center for Victims of Crime. (2018). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic violence. https://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-domestic-violence/
Reuter, T. R., et al. (2017). Intimate partner violence disparities in relationship and individual level factors among sexual minority men and women. Psychology of Violence, 7(2), 288-297. https://doi.org/10.1037/vio0000089
Ristock, J. L. (2003). Processes of same-sex partner violence: Gender, power, and culture in the context of oppression. Journal of Homosexuality, 43(2), 79-101. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v43n02_05
Stemple, L., & Flores, A. R. (2018). LGBTQ partner abuse and sexual assault: A guide for survivors. National LGBTQ Institute on Intimate Partner Violence. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a31c862f6576eb5c98fa1db/t/5ab5d4e4aa4a994eed7ea75a/1521868036016/LGBTQ+IPV+Survivors+Guide.pdf
Stephenson, R., & Finneran, C. (2017). The IPV-HIV syndemic among men who have sex with men: A scoping review. AIDS and Behavior, 21(9), 2603-2618. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-017-1787-8
Testa, R. J., et al. (2014). Minority stress and intimate partner violence among gay and bisexual men in Atlanta. American Journal of Men’s Health, 8(6), 455-463. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988314527316