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Abuse in LGBT Relationships

Domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate.

Domestic Abuse is a serious issue among lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and transgender people. Overall, 25 to 30% of relationships are abusive, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation

Common elements of abuse in any relationship:

  • No one deserves to be abused.
  • Abuse can be physical, sexual, or verbal behavior to coerce or humiliate, emotionally or psychologically.
  • Abuse often occurs in a cyclic fashion.
  • Abuse can be lethal.
  • The purpose of the abuse is to maintain control and power over one’s partner.
  • Routine intimidation is used to gain that power.
  • The abused person feels isolated, afraid and usually convinced that they are at fault.

Additional elements of abuse in the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community:

  • Lesbians, gay men, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people who are abused have much more difficulty finding appropriate support because of a fear of facing discrimination when seeking help. Abusive partners can play on this fear, for example, “no one will help you because you are gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender”
  • The myth that lesbian/gay domestic violence is “mutual” prevails.
  • Using services such as the legal system or shelters means that a gay man, lesbian woman, bisexual or transgender person may have to “come out,” which is a complex decision, based on a fear or history of being discriminated against.
  • Support services often minimize LGBT domestic violence. Service providers may be ignorant of the severity of lesbian/gay battering or uncomfortable working with this specific population.
  • The LGBT community is often small, and leaving the abuser could mean total isolation from the community. It is also likely that people will learn of the abuse, which could lead to victim blaming.
  • The batterer could threaten to out the victim in the relationship. Being “outed” at work, in a faith community or to parents is sometimes more threatening than the abuse.
  • Service providers like law enforcement officers do not always receive additional training about abuse within the LGBT community.
  • Depending on state law, both partners within a gay or lesbian relationship might not be legally recognized as parents of any children. One parent might have sole parental rights if the other parent has not legally adopted the children. The fear of “losing children” can be very real in this situation.
  • The abusive partner could have sole access to mutually purchased assets such as a vehicle or a home and sole access to any shared banking accounts, depending on the couple’s marital status.
  • The LGBT community may not be eager to acknowledge weaknesses that the heterosexual world will use to support its homophobic stereotypes. Because LGBT people have recently been making advances toward full equality and marriage equality, there is pressure to present relationships within the community as loving and committed. In reality, no community is free from violence within relationships.

Maine's domestic violence resource centers provide services to all individuals affected by domestic abuse, regardless of sexual orientation. Call the helpline, to connect with an advocate in your community. 1.866.834.HELP.

For training about domestic violence in LGBT relationships, please contact MCEDV at, or 207.430.8334.