Chapter 20: Relationship Violence (IVP) in LGBQT2SIA+ Relationships

Jennifer Marchbank

Key Messages
  • Forms of abuse specific to LGBTQ2SIA+ communities include a perpetrator: questioning their partner’s sexual or gender identity and right to be in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community; using transphobic, biphobic or homophobic slurs; controlling their partner’s expression of their gender or sexual identity; forcing personal displays of affection (PDAs) in non-safe spaces; forcing PDAs in public to ‘out’ their partner; withholding hormones from their transgender partner; using their partner’s identity as ammunition in child custody cases; threatening to ‘out’ their partner to children, family, employers, friends; engaging in financial abuse through identity theft; isolating their partner from the LGBTQ2SIA+ community; reinforcing internalized trans/bi/homophobia; and forcing them to have sex in ways that do not match their identity.
  • Numerous factors at individual, familial and societal levels may prevent a victim from accessing help. For example, a victim may: have internalized homo/trans/biphobia which may lead to a sense that ‘this is what I deserve’; live in a jurisdiction where legal definitions of IPV do not include same-sex relationships;  refrain from help-seeking for fear of being ‘outed’; have poor community experiences with police and other services; fear potential homo/trans/biphobia from service providers/police; come across few if any resources or specific/specialized supports for LGBTQ2SIA+ communities, or come across materials that do not use inclusive language, so they have no confidence that an agency can actually understand and assist them, and have a concern that they may end up in a program with their abuser if the programs are based on gender rather than experience.
  • PV among youth is a public health concern and illustrates how critical it is that schools, educators, youth service providers, and mental health practitioners educate and support diverse youth regarding healthy romantic relationships.
  • LGBTQ2SIA+ elders lived through decades of outright discrimination and persecution and these experiences have taken a toll on their mental health.
  • The lack of research and data on RV in LGBTQ2SIA+ communities have resulted in programs that offer limited benefits and support or even further marginalize victims within LGBTQ2SIA+ communities

Relationship violence is any form of physical, emotional, spiritual and financial abuse, negative social control or coercion that is suffered by anyone that has a bond or relationship with the offender. In the literature, we find words such as intimate partner violence (IPV), neglect, dating violence, family violence, battery, child neglect, child abuse, bullying, seniors or elder abuse, male violence, stalking, cyberbullying, strangulation, technology-facilitated coercive control, honour killing, female genital mutilation gang violence and workplace violence. In couples, violence can be perpetrated by women and men in opposite-sex relationships (Carney et al., 2007), within same-sex relationships (Rollè et al., 2018) and in relationships where the victim is LGBTQ2SIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, intersex and asexual plus)  (The Scottish Trans Alliance, 2010; Rollè et al., 2018). Relationship violence is a result of multiple impacts such as taken for granted inequalities, policies and practices that accept sexism, racism, ageism, xenophobia and homophobia. It can span the entire age spectrum. It may start in-utero and end with death. In this chapter, we bring together understandings of relationship violence on the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Relationship Violence (Interpersonal Violence) and the LGBTQ2SIA+ Community

Like all other communities, relationship violence does happen among LGBTQ2SIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, intersex and asexual plus). There are some similarities with other groups but there are specific differences that service providers must be aware of and understand. Before going into a discussion of interpersonal violence in LGBTQ2SIA+ relationships, we summarize forms of abuse that are specific to this community.

Perpetrators in relationships with LGBTQ2SIA+ folks may, in addition to other behaviours:

  • Question their partner’s sexual or gender identity and right to be in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community
  • Control their partner’s expression of their gender or sexual identity, eg may force them to dress in ways that make them uncomfortable
  • Use transphobic, biphobic or homophobic slurs
  • Force personal displays of affection (PDAs) in non-safe spaces to scare their partner
  • Force PDAs in public to ‘out’ their partner
  • Deny that abuse can exist in same-sex relationships
  • Accuse their partner of being equally guilty of abuse
  • Withhold hormones from their transgender partner
  • Use their partner’s identity as ammunition in child custody cases
  • Threaten to ‘out’ their partner to children, family, employers, friends
  • Financial abuse can include identity theft which is easier if the partner is same-sex
  • Isolate their partner from the LGBTQ2SIA+ community
  • Reinforce internalized trans/bi/homophobia
  • Force them to have sex in ways that do not match their identity (e.g., forcing a transman to have vaginal sex) (list created by Jen Marchbank)

Members of LGBQT2SIA+ community also face barriers to services in unique ways.

  • May live in a jurisdiction where legal definitions of IPV do not include same-sex relationships
  • May refrain from help-seeking for fear of being ‘outed’, with subsequent fear of rejection by family and friends
  • Poor community experiences with police and other services
  • Fear of ‘washing dirty linen in public’, that is of making the community look bad
  • Fear potential homo/trans/biphobia from service providers/police
  • Materials on resources do not mention LGBTQ2SIA+, resulting in no confidence that the agency can actually understand and assist
  • Materials do not use inclusive language
  • Refusal of services based on identity (e.g., locally Vancouver Rape Relief will not provide services to transwomen)
  • Lack of specific programs and services
  • Concern that they may end up in a program with their or another’s, abuser if programs are based on gender rather than experience
  • Internalized homo/trans/biphobia may lead to a sense that ‘this is what I deserve ’ (list created by Jen Marchbank)

Every year, on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, statements are made to raise awareness about the bullying and persecution the LGBTQ2SIA+ community faces, including children and youth. In May 2020, the BC Representative for Children and Youth, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, issued the following statement that can be found here.

What data do we have?

Statistics Canada counts the number of same-sex police-reported incidents and discusses barriers to reporting but does not have any figures on rates of non-reporting by LGBTQ2SIA+ people. (Ibrahim, 2019).

Writing about the implications of a lack of data on violence in lesbian relationships Wurtzberg (2013) notes that:

Lack of data translates into uninformed assistance, or no assistance by police, courts, shelters, and other service providers. A typical strategy, given the low number of applicable studies, has been to apply knowledge about the heterosexual intimate battery in a somewhat haphazard fashion to understanding LGBTQ family violence. This policy has been about as effective a helping tool as attempts from previous decades to use information about white, middle-class families for understanding domestic challenges for people of colour (p. 849).

Further, Ristock (2003) argues that practitioners cannot and should not rely on frameworks of understanding and practice that are based on heterosexual gender relations when trying to understand and provide services to those who are/have been in non-heterosexual relationships that were abusive. To provide appropriate services we need to understand what abuse looks like amongst non-heterosexual people, including elders and youth. As Loree Cook-Daniels, (2017) notes there is a dearth of studies of elder abuse among non-heterosexual people whilst Lisa Langenderfer-Magruder et al. (2016) note that “…sexual minority youth more often experience PV (partner violence) victimization than their heterosexual peers” (p. 57). As such, it is necessary that we understand violence and abuse in all our communities and sub-communities. This chapter addresses rates of violence and assault experienced by non-heterosexual members of society and also their use of abuse and violence in relationships.

We are probably all aware that LGBTQ2SIA+ people live in a world where homophobia and transphobia remain a threat to their rights and sometimes to their person. What is less well known is that this diverse group of diverse people is also more at risk for sexual and interpersonal violence, for example in Canada in 2014 the rate of victimization (of sexual assault, physical assault or robbery) was 69 per 1000 for heterosexual identified people; 142 per 1000 for lesbians and gay men and 267 per 1000 for bisexual people. Some of this is explained by the fact that those identifying as LGBTQ2SIA+ are a younger demographic than the remainder of the population and as such are at a higher risk due to their age (as they may more frequently occupy spaces that are unsafe, such as the street) but it is also explained by other social factors such as hidden homelessness  (Conroy & Cotter, 2017). Hidden homelessness means relying on the goodness of others to let one remain under their roof and this may come with an acceptance that to remain a person has to endure violence or sexual activity. Conroy & Cotter (2017) note that for the hidden homeless the rates of violent victimization are three times higher than for those who have stable housing. They cite rates of hidden homeless as follows:

Table 20.1 – Victimization among Homeless among different sex identities 

Heterosexuals  8%
Lesbian and Gay 12%
Bisexual 18%

There are not many studies on victimization and sexual and gender minority populations but research on lesbian, gays and bisexuals has been growing with Simpson (2018) collecting such data in recent years. There is even less on the experiences of transgender and non-binary people. Brown & Herman (2015) reviewed the findings of 42 studies, mostly from the USA, from 1989 to 2015 and found that for LGBTQ2SIA+ individuals there were certain trends that differed from those who identify as heterosexual, including higher rates of IPV (intimate partner violence) for both male and female bisexuals and a significantly heightened risk of IPSA (intimate partner sexual abuse) for bisexual women in particular. Waters et al. (2013) report on a randomized telephone survey of adults across the USA in 2010 conducted in both English and Spanish with a specific focus on those who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual. They conclude that bisexual women have a significantly higher lifetime risk of rape/sexual violence by any perpetrator than lesbians or heterosexual women.

Table 20.2 – Prevalence Rates by Identity from the National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Study  (NISVS), 2010 Findings, USA 

Lifetime IPV Lifetime IPV Lifetime IPSA Lifetime IPSA
Men % Women % Men % Women %
General population 28.1 32.9 8.0 15.9


28.7 32.3 * 15.3


37.3 56.9 * 40.0^
Gay, Lesbian


25.2 40.4 * **

* estimate not reported, ** estimate not reported sample size too small, ^ statistically significant difference between bisexual and heterosexual women (Waters et al., 2013)

Table 20.3 – Lifetime Prevalence Rape/Sexual Violence, 2010, USA

Rape Rape Sexual Violence Sexual Violence
Women Men Women Men
Lesbian, Gay


13.1 Too small 46.4 40.2


46.1 Too small 74.9 47.4


17.4 0.7 43.3 20.8

(Waters et al., 2013)

Assaults on bisexual and heterosexual women were reported to have been perpetrated by men at a rate of 98% (Waters et al., 2013), see Table 20.4.

Table 20.4 – Sexual Assault other than Rape, % male perpetrators, 2010, USA

Women Men
Lesbian/Gay 85.2 78.6
Bisexual 87.5 65.8
Heterosexual 94.7 28.6 male

54.8 female

16.6 male & female

(Waters et al., 2013)

So, in Table 20.4 we see that for all groups, except heterosexual men, the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are men. However, this means that at least a minority of reported sexual assaults in the USA are perpetrated by women. Coxell et al. (2000) note that female perpetrators were involved in 40% of the cases of rape of men in their study.

Looking at rates of violence by intimate partners that include rape, stalking and physical violence (see Table 20.5) we again see an increased prevalence experienced by bisexual people, particularly bisexual women. We also see that bisexual women and lesbians are also at an increased risk in comparison with heterosexual women, with gay men reporting the least level of victimization.

Table 20.5 – Rates of IPV including rape, stalking, physical violence, 2010, USA

Women Men
Lesbian, Gay


43.8 26


61.1 37.3


35 29

(Waters et al., 2013)

Again, it is useful to examine who is perpetrating these violent acts so as to better inform policy and practice. According to figures provided by Waters et al. (2013) we once again see that men are reported as perpetrators in almost, but not all, cases. See Table 20.6.

Table 20.6 – Violence by sex of perpetrator and identity of the victim, 2010, USA

Women Men
Lesbian, Gay


67.4 female perpetrator 90.7 male


89.5 male 78.5 male


98.7 male 99.5 female

(Waters et al., 2013)

These figures indicate that in IPV in non-heterosexual relationships whilst a significant majority is perpetrated by men, women are also using violence in lesbian relationships, the dynamics of which are explored below.

EVABC our provincially funder gender-based organized conducted a webinar for service providers,  Addressing Domestic Violence in LGBT2SQ+ Communities across BC earlier in 2020. It can be accessed here.


LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and children can face violence within their families based on their gender and sexual identities, some are also forced out due to rejection by parents and other family members. A 2015 study of homeless youth seeking services in the USA, Serving our YouthUCLA Williams Institute – found that 46% of the LGBTQ2SIA+ youth seeking homeless services had left home due to family rejection with 32% of these youth reported physical, emotional and sexual abuse at home. This survey (and many others) have found LGBTQ2SIA+ youth are over-represented in the homelessness statistics, especially those who are the youth of colour. Transgender youth are most vulnerable with 67.1% of those surveyed stating that they had been forced out/run away due to their gender identity, compared to 55.3% for LGB youth.

In studies of LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and partner violence, the acronym PV is most frequently used to indicate that violence and abuse may occur in a relationship that does not necessarily involve sexual intimacy. As Martin-Storey (2015) and others have noted dating violence in adolescence has been linked to an increased likelihood of future IPV behaviours as an adult. There are also particular risk factors for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth that make them more likely than their heterosexual and cisgender peers to become victims of PV. These include depression, suicidal ideation, abuse, a lack of peer and familial support and acceptance and substance abuse (Langenderfer-Magruder et al., 2016; Vezina & Hebert, 2007). Also, Langenderfer-Magruder et al. (2016) found that although these factors exist amongst heterosexual and cisgender youth they are experienced at higher rates by LGBTQ2SIA+ youth, making LGBTQ2SIA+ youth more vulnerable to PV.

[Risk] factors are often present at heightened levels in LGB youth populations, in large part because of the socially disconnected and discriminatory experiences they face—particularly upon exposure of their sexual orientation to family, friends, and classmates. In fact, up to half of LGB teens experience a negative reaction from parents when they reveal their sexual orientation (Dank et al., 2014, p. 847).

Langenderfer-Magruder et al. (2016) examined various risk factors and concluded that demographic variables such as ethnicity or socioeconomic status did not correlate with PV but that the existence of each risk factor did correlate. Indeed, Martin-Storey (2015) found that the self-reporting rates of youth in her study of 14-18-year-olds in the USA (n= 12,984) were consistently higher for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth than for their heterosexual peers – see Table 20.7.

Table 20.7 – Rates of self-reporting victimization by the partner in youth 14-18, USA, percentage

Girls Boys


42 32


42 20


25 36


16 6

(Martin-Storey, 2015)

Breaking down violence into different types reveals that the over-representation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in the violence figures remains in all categories, with transgender youth reporting a horrifically high figure of 88.9% victimization via physical violence in their dating relationships – see Table 20.8.

Table 20.8 – Rates of dating violence, by type and identity, percentage

Physical Psychological Online dating Sexual coercion


42.8 59.2 37.2 23.2


29.0 46.4 25.7 12.3


88.9 58.8 56.3 61.1


29.6 47.1 26.2 12.8

(Dank et al., 2014)

PV amongst LGBTQ2SIA+ is not just a concern about victimization, it is also a health concern:

PV among youth is a public health concern, and the elevated rates among LGBQ youth, higher rates among transgender youth, and highest rates among youth who are both transgender and LGBQ illustrate how critical it is that schools, educators, youth service providers, and mental health practitioners educate and support diverse youth regarding healthy romantic relationships. All youth−but particularly LGBTQ youth−need to know how to seek help for PV when it occurs and must feel safe knowing that they will not be judged, shamed, or blamed for being victimized. Additionally, providers need to understand that lived experiences−including the accrual of risks−differ based on the intersection of multiple identities and educate themselves on how best to engage young adults in a manner that is culturally responsive (Walls et al., 2019, p. 91).

Other studies have looked at the role of minority stress (Wikipedia – Minority Stress, 2017), which is the stress experienced by those who are members of stigmatized groups, such as LGBTQ2SIA+ in relation not to victimhood but to perpetration. In their study, again from the USA, of college youth, Edwards & Sylaska (2013) found that perpetrators of physical violence acted out of a desire to conceal their identity (to remain in the closet) and from internalized homonegativity whilst perpetrators of sexual assault did so from internalized homonegativity. They conclude that the greatest stress faced by LGBTQ2SIA+ college students is internalized homonegativity (IH). IH is the end result of a process in which LGBTQ2SIA+ people internalize societal messages regarding gender and sex, this is often unconscious like other cases of social learning. This can create negative self-images when they realize that they are LGBTQ2SIA+ (Herek, 2000) causing emotional, psychological and even physical harm. This is because negative internalized beliefs create a psychological dilemma between romantic desires and negative beliefs about the self; the disjuncture can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, low self-esteem, and other emotional difficulties (Berg et al., 2016, p. 541).

The risk factors and stressors facing gender and sexual minority youth result in higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, lower school grades and higher rates of school truancy. In the first national survey of LGBTQ students in Canada researchers for Egale Canada found that gender and sexual minority students faced verbal harassment, cyberbullying, physical harassment (reported by 40% of transgender respondents and 20% of LGB), with 95% of transgender students and 75% of LGB reporting that they felt UNSAFE in school (for heterosexual students this figure was 20%) (Taylor & Peter, 2011). Given these figures, it is not surprising that some LGBTQ2SIA+ youth have higher truancy rates and lower academic performance.

Crooks et al. (2020) highlighted two effective programs for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth. Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) “supported the needs of youth and increased their sense of connection with the LGBT2Q+ community and resources” and OK2BME “created a safe and supportive (environment), and enhanced their understanding of LGBT2Q+ related issues” (p. 19). As well, they stated that adaptations to heterosexual youth programs are possible. They provide an example of a program, “Healthy Relationships Program for LGBT2Q+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Queer & Questioning) Youth” that was successfully adapted from the “Healthy Relationships Plus Program” (HRP). Although this program was not specific to addressing relationship violence they recommend that when adapting programs, gender and sexually diverse youth be involved in the adaptation process, that it be carefully facilitated and that the unique challenges such as social norms, minority status, stress, etc be built into programs.

EVABC, our provincially funded gender-based organization is funded for a Safe Choices LGBT2SQ+ Support and Education Program. You can check their website for training opportunities.

This Practice Brief from the US Family Acceptance Project is a good resource on how families can be supported in supporting their LGBTQ2SIA+ child/teen and how to avoid using their identity negatively within families, by Dr. Caitlyn Ryan (2009) – click here to access.

LGBTQ2SIA+ Elder Abuse

We wonder how many of us think of elder abuse in terms of sexual and gender identities. How many of us think about the safety of older gay men in care homes? Or of a transwoman requiring appropriate medical care? As Gutman et al. (2020) surmise:

Though we don’t know enough about LGBT elder abuse, what we do know is that any differences between LGBT elder abuse and elder abuse in the general population have been predicated and generated (at least partially) by the cultural context in which they emerged. As Westwood (2018) has pointed out, “the abuse of older people involves at its heart, an imbalance of power relations”. In the case of older LGBT victims of abuse, these power relationships are strongly influenced by both historic and current factors, which not only include popular cultural attitudes, legislation, and social policies but also how these have been perceived by people who identify as LGBT (p. 149).

LGBTQ2SIA+ elders have been described as an invisible population (Brotman et al., 2003) which has partly been due to their fears of being public, such fears having been developed when their sexuality was criminalized or treated as a mental illness. Brotman et al. (2003) found that gay and lesbian patients of all ages still reported negative reactions from service providers, “ranging from condescension, excessive curiosity and pity, through embarrassment, hostility, and outright rejection” (Gutman et al., 2020, p.152). As such, these elders may delay disclosing their abuse for fear of ‘outing’ themselves and they also face many of the barriers listed at the beginning of this chapter. This fear also prevents many elders from entering care homes, whilst others fear that entering a communal living facility may necessitate a ‘return to the closet’. These factors all add to the invisibility and silence of this demographic leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

There are a number of risk factors that LGBTQ2SIA+ elders face that are unique to them, these include a greater likelihood of being depressed and/or disabled (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al, 2013); they are less likely to have been married or to have children of their own which exposes them to greater rates of loneliness (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2013) and if they do have children they might not be in a supportive relationship with them. Due to societal pressures, LGBTQ2SIA+ older adults are more likely than their heterosexual peers to have abused drugs and/or alcohol (Choi & Meyer, 2016). In addition, LGBTQ2SIA+ elders also face higher levels of poverty and are at a greater risk for financial abuse due to lifetime disparities in earnings (Choi & Meyer, 2016) and previously existing legal and social systems that discriminated against their ability to acquire financial security (such as not being able to claim their deceased partner’s benefits and pensions). Although in many countries there is now technical legal equality and laws against discrimination, LGBTQ2SIA+ elders lived through decades of outright discrimination and persecution and this takes a toll on their mental health (Brotman et al., 2001; Cabaj & Stein, 1996).

LGBTQ2SIA+ elders have lived through social exclusion, violence and oppression which has required them to be resilient. However, the years of experience of social stigma, marginalization and other oppressions have, for some, created IH (Internalized Homonegativity) resulting in feelings of shame and depressing self-esteem. We know that all abuse is an abuse of power, and that elder abuse is also the abuse of trust. Those with low self-esteem are “ targets … who might be easily convinced that they are worthless..” (Gutman et al., 2020, p. 153). The same threats that are listed at the beginning of this chapter apply to this population as well as to younger cohorts and they may less able than others to challenge them.

A team of researchers from Simon Fraser University and two community groups: Youth for A Change and QUIRK-e (queer riting and imaging kollective of elders) produced Canada’s first educational materials on this issue which include 5 posters and 3 videos, all available for free at LGBT Elder Abuse. Further resources are available on these links:

AARP – US survey of older LGBTQ – mostly on plans for elder care & health, some good statistics

Maintaining Dignity: A survey of LGBT Adults Age 45 and older

Egale Canada – not about abuse BUT fear of homophobia in receiving care


Egale Canada Seniors’ Consultation

Community Engagement Consult for LGBTQI2S Seniors

Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships

At the beginning of the chapter, we listed several things that can be specific to IPV in same-sex relationships or for trans and nonbinary folks. The article here provides some discussion of these factors:

The Atlantic – Same-sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent

There are a number of factors that need to be considered with regard to IPV in same-sex relationships. Firstly, as the domestic violence prevention movement and services have their roots in the battered women’s movement of the 1970s (with some of the first shelters for women fleeing abuse opening in Western countries in that decade, (Marchbank & Letherby, 2014) the image of a survivor is often that of a heterosexual woman from a long term relationship or marriage. This serves to invisibilize any victim who does not fit this profile and also prevents the development of specific strategies and services for LGBTQ2SIA+ people. For example, the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2018) in the USA acknowledges that IPV can occur in heterosexual and same-sex relationships but then promotes the same six strategies to deal with both scenarios as if there are no differences – Intimate Partner Violence.

Now, of course, many of the strategies presented on this site will assist with all kinds of violence in society but a model based on heterosexuality is not the best fit for nonheterosexual relationships. Ristock (2003) argues that you cannot rely on “… heterosexual gender-based frameworks for explaining abusive same-sex relationships” (p. 331). The frameworks may not fit, but we argue in chapter 6 that there are some overlapping risk factors that may be beneficial for RV prevention campaigns. As well, programs if made culturally safe with carefully facilitated input from this population may be able to be modified and used.

In her work on abuse within lesbian relationships, Ristock (2003) conducted 80 in-depth interviews with lesbians who had experienced IPV. She notes that previous studies have “.. concluded that lesbian partner battering occurs at the same or at an even higher rate than heterosexual partner violence”(p. 330). However, she argues for caution in accepting such figures given that the studies she is looking at are not randomized samples of respondents but self-selected respondents – which may be an over-representation of the community. She advocates for adapting models and services away from the traditional model of abuse which sees female victim and male perpetrator pointing out that if this extant model is simply applied to lesbian relationships then either a) lesbian abuse becomes invisible or, b) the abuser comes to be seen as like a man. Neither of which are useful in providing support for the lesbian relationship.

One pattern that Ristock (2003) has uncovered is that 49% of victims in her study were abused in their first lesbian relationship. They were frequently younger than the abusive partner, had not been ‘out’ as long as their partner and had little access to the lesbian community. As such, these lesbians often relied on their partners to access the lesbian community and lesbian resources. In addition, the older abusive partner was friends with other lesbians longer and as such many of the younger women felt that they had no friends of their own in the community with whom to discuss what was happening in their relationship. However, Ristock (2003) looks beyond individuals for an explanation concluding that the “… pattern suggests that vulnerability to violence is not internal but is part of the cost of a heterosexist context where lesbians are isolated, unable to access meeting places, and often dependent on their first lover for information about lesbian culture” (p. 335).

Having noted this pattern Ristock (2003) points to ways in which services and information can be shaped to address this aspect of abuse in lesbian relationships:

… there may be ways of reducing violence in first relationships by having educational campaigns, “coming out” literature and LGBT services specifically address this context. Materials could be developed for women who are just coming out that dispute harmful, limiting stereotypes of lesbian relationships, define healthy relationships, and identify some troubling warning signs of which they could be aware (p. 339).

Gay men also face the difficulties of being invisible to service providers and society in general. However, sometimes gay men as victims are hypervisible but not in a positive way. Rumney (2009) reports that some police officers hold attitudes that negate a gay man’s reporting of rape/sexual assault either by a stranger or with a partner. He notes that these attitudes include ‘” highly questionable assumptions regarding credibility, trauma, and truthfulness” (Rumney, 2009, p. 238). The societal view that gay men are highly promiscuous also does not help when gay and bi men report assault resulting in victim-blaming (Jackson et al., 2017; Javaid, 2018a), as “… gay male rape victims are often seen as having ‘asked for it’ and are, therefore, blamed for their own rape” (Javaid, 2018b, p. 762). Meyer (2020) has found that attitudes of gay men towards police also differ. He found that, in the USA, gender-nonconforming gay men of colour report continuing racial and gender profiling; older white men did not hold expectations of being assisted by the police; gender-conforming gay men of colour were surprised to have their sexuality disparaged by police and that young white gay men expected to find support when reporting the assault.

Studies of men and their health show us that the concept of masculinity is relevant, for example, several studies show that men are reluctant to seek health-related services due to their internalized concept of masculinity, that is real men are stoical, healthy and can sort it out themselves (see Payne, 2006; Thompson & Lagendoerfer, 2016). With regard to reporting abuse and/or assault gay men’s concepts of masculinity can also be a barrier, with IPV being normalized or hidden “…as part of male and manly sexual relationships and [gay men] covered up their experience of violence through masculine stoicism” (Oliffe et al., 2014, p. 574). Internalized homonegativity and homophobia can also play their part for as the dominant, hegemonic, discourses of masculinity include heterosexuality, then being gay means they do not fit. As such, societal “… heteronormativity can manifest itself as internalized homophobia to silence reports of IPV in gay men’s relationships “(Oliffe et al., 2014, p. 571).

For a more detailed discussion see Anna Griffith’s, 2013 doctoral thesis here An investigation into same-sex partner violence.

This chapter provides information on relationship violence in LGBTQ2SIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, intersex and asexual plus) communities. Violence is an issue faced by all groups in our society and among all ages. There are commonalities but there are also specific differences. Just as we need to ensure cultural safety when working with people with diverse social and cultural backgrounds we also need to ensure cultural safety when working with LGBTQ2SIA+ survivors and perpetrators. The chapter discusses the forms of abuse that are specific to this community and as shown in the research, it is important to look at what abuse looks like amongst non-heterosexual people. The unique barriers faced by these groups, the data available and the research on LGBTQ2SIA+ elders and abuse in same-sex relationships are provided. Like other chapters, it is important to note if there are limitations in research on select populations and identify where further action and advocacy are needed.

Other Resources

Here is a link to AMIS, a Scottish leading charity for men who experience domestic abuse. They operate a national helpline, website and training services. – LGBT+ Domestic Abuse (AMIS, n.d.)

Another good resource is the SHIFT The Project to End Domestic Violence. It is a multi-agency effort to work on prevention.  They have identified resources for Gender and Sexually Diverse Communities.

An excellent resource that provides information on risk reduction, competencies to reduce barriers and other resources is provided by LearningNetwork here: .

Elizabeth Fry is also a great resource that provides assistance with shelter, family services, counselling, employment and educational support for transgender individuals who are at risk of violence.


AMIS. (n.d.). LGBT+ Domestic Abuse.

Baker, L., Straatman, A-L., Etherington, N., & Barreto, E. 2015. Intimate partner violence (IPV) in rainbow communities. Learning Network, 12.

Berg, R.C., Munthe-Kass, H.M., & Ross, M.W. (2016). Internalized homonegativity: A systematic review of empirical research. Journal of Homosexuality, 64 (3), 541-558.

Brotman, S., Ryan, B., & Cormier, R. 2003. The health and social service needs of gay and lesbian elders and their families in Canada. The Gerontologist, 43, 192-202.

Brotman, S., Ryan, B., & Rowe, B., (2001). Equity in health service delivery to gay and lesbian patients. McGill School of Social Work.

Brown, T.N.T., & Herman, J. L. (2015). Intimate partner violence and sexual abuse among LGBT people: A review of existing research. The Williams Institute.

Cabaj, R. P., & Stein, T. S. (1996). Textbook of homosexuality and mental health. American Psychiatric Press.

Carney, M., Buttell, B., & Dutton, D. (2007). Women who perpetrate intimate partner violence: A review of the literature with recommendations for treatment. Aggression and Violent Behavior 12, 108 –115.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Intimate partner violence.

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