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LGBTQ+ Intimate Partner Violence

All of our services are available to any person who has experienced intimate partner violence, including all gender identities and sexual orientations
  • 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ people experience at least one form of severe physical violence by a partner in their lifetime
  • Transgender survivors report 3x more incidences of stalking, sexual violence, and financial abuse
Intimate partner violence among LGBTQ+ couples can look very similar to heterosexual relationships, with a few added types of abuse.

LGBTQ+ Tactics of Abuse (Adapted from Northwest Network)

  • Isolation and Outing
    • Both threating to "out" a person or insisting a person remain closeted can be used as tooms of control
    • "If you leave me, I'll tell your boss that you are transgender"
  • Using Vulnerabilities
    • A person may be coerced or feel obligated to stay, care for, and/or prioritize their partner’s needs over their own
    • Attempts to negotiate boundaries or prioritize self are undermined
    • “Sure, leave me. Just like everyone else in my life.”
  • Using Small Communities
    • Using friends to monitor survivor, gathering information to ostracize or threaten to ostracize
  • Using Children
    • Many LGBTQ+ people are not allowed legal custody of their children
    • Safety planning should consider who is the biological parent (even with adoption)
    • “If I tell your ex-husband that you are bisexual, he will take you to court and never let you see the kids again.”
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse
    • LGBTQ+ people have historically been forced to make community in “illegal” and marginalized spaces, such as bars
    • Leveraging consequences of current/previous drug use and drug criminalization
    • “I’ll tell your PO that you have been drinking again.”
  • Transgender Specific Tactics
    • Denying access to medication or health care, especially for partner receiving hormone treatment therapy
    • Ridiculing gender identity
    • Refusing to use correct pronoun/name
    • Criticizing appearance
    • Calling them sick/crazy
    • "Even with that wig on, you still look like a man."

When talking about tactics of abuse, it’s important to recognize that someone’s experience and ways they are perceived are shaped by all parts of their identity. For example, if you are lesbian and white, that experience is not representative of being lesbian and Asian, gay and Latinx, or queer and Black. Awareness of how these identities interact and cannot be cleanly separated means recognizing that LGBTQ+ people of color can be discriminated against not only as people of color or as LGBTQ+ people, but as both simultaneously. Abusive partners will often exploit their partner’s vulnerabilities around identity to maintain power and control over them.

  • Race-Related Tactics:
    • Using racial epithets and negative racial stereotypes
    • Using partner’s reluctance to involve police and knowledge of history of police abuse of people of color to discourage them from seeking help
    • Using white (or light skin) privilege
    • Using master/slave S/M scenes
    • Exploiting partner’s internalized racism

LGBTQ+ relationships have the ability to be healthy and supportive when they are rooted in respect and equality. Here are some ways to incorporate healthy behaviors in your relationship:

  • Emotional Support: Acknowledge your partner’s reality. Say positive things and be supportive of them in public and in private. Support them as they build a positive sense of self.
  • Respect Physical Space: Allow your partner to be alone or to be with others as they please. Respect their items, pets, and children. Touch your partner only in respectful ways.
  • Non-Threatening Behavior: Speak and act in a way that allows your partner to feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves and interacting.
  • Empowerment: Recognize and respect your partner’s background, including: race, class, education, wealth, politics, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Recognize your partner’s needs and obligations as equally important to your own.
  • Responsible Parenting: Share parenting responsibilities with your partner. Be a positive non-violent role model for children. Make parenting agreements together and fulfil them. Avoid involving children in arguments.
  • Economic Partnership: Make financial decisions with your partner to ensure that you both benefit from economic security. Each partner should be allowed to make their own purchases. Encourage career and educational growth for your partner.
  • Sexual Consent and Respect: Negotiate sex to respect your partner. Respect when your partner says no. Discuss safer sex if that is desired by you or your partner. Respect your partner’s HIV and STI status/treatment and keep it confidential.
  • Negotiation and Shared Responsibility: Agree on a fair distribution of work, make family decisions together. Seek mutually agreeable resolution to conflicts, and be willing to compromise.
  • Trust and Support: Support your partner’s goals. Respect your partner’s right to their own feelings, friends, activities and opinions.
  • Honesty, Accountability, and Respect: Accept responsibility for self, admit being wrong, and communicate honestly and openly. Listen actively, be understanding, and value one another’s opinions.
  • LGBTQ+ Empowerment: Support your partner’s identity and connections to the community. Allow your partner to choose if/when and how to come out to the people they meet.
  • Trans Empowerment: Validate your partner’s gender. Support your partner in expression of their gender identity. Use your partner’s name/pronouns correctly.
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