Guest Blog 3: “Why Don’t They Leave?”: Barriers Facing LGBTQ + Survivors Of Intimate Partner Violence” By: Acadia Jacob, MPH
Perhaps you have seen the statistics: one in four women and one in seven men report being beaten, burned, or strangled by a partner in their lifetime.[i] While these numbers illustrate the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence (IPV), they bolster public perceptions that IPV occurs along a gender binary and obscure the prevalence of IPV amongst gender and sexual minority groups.
IPV is experienced at equal to or higher levels by LGBTQ+ persons. The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey revealed that 61.1% of bisexual women and 37.3% of bisexual men had experience IPV in their lifetime, as well as 43.8% of lesbians and 26% of gay men.[ii] The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey further demonstrated more than 50% of trans persons had experienced IPV. [iii]
It is imperative that advocates be informed about LGBTQ+ IPV and the barriers that prevent survivors from accessing safety. To this end, I have developed the following social-ecological overview of IPV in LGBTQ+ relationships.[iv] I have also developed an illustrated reference guide.
(Source: The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2017)
Individual: Given that IPV occurs across sexual orientations, gender identities, relationship-statuses and styles, dynamics of power and control vary greatly. To identify IPV in LGBTQ+ relationships, it is vital that advocates, 1) listen to survivors, and 2) be attuned to interpersonal relationship dynamics. Examples of LGBTQ+ power and control dynamics are included in reference guide and Power and Control Wheel above.[v]
Relationship & Community: Interpersonal and community networks may be limited for LGBTQ+ survivors facing stigma. Turning to friends may not be safe if survivors share the same social circles as abusers.[vi] Survivors may not be “out” to family, or family may not be supportive of their relationship.[vii] Lack of work worker protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination may prevent survivors from confiding in colleagues.[viii]
Societal: Pervasive systemic discrimination also impacts LGBTQ+ survivors access to resources and services. Two major institutions that serve as “first point of contact” for survivors – the medical system and criminal justice system – have histories of inequitable treatment of LGBTQ+ communities, and may not provide LGBTQ+ informed IPV services.[ix] Even within IPV programs systemic discrimination persists: The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports 85% of advocates have worked with an LGBTQ+ survivor who was denied services based on their gender or sexual identity.[x]
In conclusion, it is our collective responsibility to envision IPV in a way that is inclusive and nuanced as the issue itself. Central to this mission is identifying how systemic discrimination perpetuates harms to the LGBTQ+ community within the field of IPV and society at large. For information and resources on this topic, see: The Network/La Red; FORGE-Forward; and the Los Angeles LBGT Center.[xi] These programs continue to innovate IPV policy and praxis for a safe, inclusive future for all.
[ii] O’Hara, M. E. (2016, October 18). Domestic Violence Shelters Are Turning Away LGBTQ Victims. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vdqz39/lgbtq-domestic-violence-survivors-cant-access-shelters
[iii] The Network/La Red. (n.d.). Partner Abuse in LGBQ/T Communities. Retrieved from http://tnlr.org/en/partner-abuse-in-lgbq-t-communities/
[iv] Centers for Disease Control. (2018, October 23). Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/index.html#:~:text=
[v] National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2017, August 11). LGBT Power and Control Wheel. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/lgbt-abuse/lgbt-power-and-control-wheel/
[vi] Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community
[vii] Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community
[viii] Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community
[ix] Brown, T. N. T., & Herman, J. L. (2015). Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse Among Lgbt People . Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse Among LGBT People . The Williams Institute. Retrieved from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Intimate-Partner-Violence-and-Sexual-Abuse-among-LGBT-People.pdf
[x] O’Hara, M. E. (2016, October 18). Domestic Violence Shelters Are Turning Away LGBTQ Victims. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vdqz39/lgbtq-domestic-violence-survivors-cant-access-shelters
[xi] The Network/La Red. (n.d.). Partner Abuse in LGBQ/T Communities. Retrieved from http://tnlr.org/en/partner-abuse-in-lgbq-t-communities/
Acadia is a public health advocate working at the nexus of intimate partner violence policy, research, and praxis. She specializes in organization and business management, program evaluation, and policy development. She is dedicated to elevating intersectional, trauma-informed IPV prevention and response initiatives at local, state, and federal levels.
Acadia Jacob, MPH
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