*Note: This article was originally published on Pride Pocket prior to merging with MyUmbrella*
One in three young people — straight, LGBTQ+, and otherwise– experience some form of dating abuse, with LGBTQ teens experiencing a greater risk of partner violence than their heterosexual counterparts.
A 2013 report surveyed 3,745 grade-school students who reported being in a relationship or having been in one during the previous year. Researchers found that 43% of LGBT youth reported being victims of physical dating violence, compared to just 29% of heterosexual youth. Numbers were even higher for victims of emotional abuse (59% of LGBT youth versus 46% of heterosexual youth). Transgender youth had some of the highest rates of victimization, despite making up a tiny percentage of the total respondents. Interestingly, LGB victims of teen dating violence were more likely to seek help and advice than their heterosexual counterparts.
My New Directions is an organization serving victims of abuse by providing them with housing, legal support, and medical services.
They put together a helpful list of factors contributing to abuse and obstacles that prohibit LGBTQ youth from reporting or escaping abusive relationships:
- Shame or Embarrassment. You may be struggling with your own internalized homophobia or shame about your sexual orientation or gender identity. Your abusive partner may attempt to use this shame to exert power and control over you.
- Fear of not Being Believed or Taken Seriously. You may worry that if you report abuse, you will encounter common stereotypes like violence between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, abuse doesn’t occur in lesbian relationships, only the physically bigger partner can be abusive, or LGBTQ relationships are inherently unhealthy. Your partner may exploit this fear, trying to convince you that no one will take an LGBTQ victim seriously.
- Fear of Retaliation, Harassment, Rejection, or Bullying. If you are not yet “out” to everyone, your abusive dating partner may threaten to tell your secret to people who will make your life more difficult once they know. You may also fear that seeking help will make you a target of public ridicule, retaliation, harassment, or bullying. Your abusive partner may exploit these fears to isolate you and keep you in the relationship.
- Less Legal Protection. You may be unaware that you have legal options for protection — including obtaining a restraining or protective order. Although laws vary from state to state, and some specifically restrict restraining orders to heterosexual couples, most states have gender-neutral laws that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Learn about your state’s laws.
If you, or anyone you know, is trapped in an abusive relationship, I cannot urge you strongly enough to seek help. Your future is bright and full of the promise of healthy, loving, supportive relationships, and there are a number of organizations and services in place to help you realize that potential.
Shame + Embarrassment
There is nothing to be ashamed of. Your partner’s behavior is NOT a reflection of your worth, and most importantly, it is not your fault. Many victims of abuse deal with debilitating feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment – but you do not have to navigate those emotions alone.
We do not live in a culture with a sterling track record of supporting and believing survivors of any form of abuse. It can be terrifying to seek help for a thousand reasons, but advocacy organizations exist to guide you through the process of securing your safety.
AARDVARC: An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection
The Anti-Violence Project (AVP)
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Ultimate Guide to Resources for LGBTQ+ Students
GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender (GLBT) National Hotline
Even if you’re safe enough to report the abuse, a lingering fear of retaliation is completely understandable. From the fear of being outed, to the potential of lost friendships, there is a lot to consider. In the same way that Queer Advocates can help you address your safety and success throughout the reporting process, Domestic/Partner Violence Victim Advocates will fight to stand by you for the duration of your battle for safety.
What is a Victim Advocate?
Advocates Against Domestic Abuse
Domestic Abuse Project
Know your rights, and get help with any legal concerns that are keeping you in an unsafe situation.
Legal Resource Archive
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
Human Rights Campaign: Advocating for LGBTQ Equality
LGBT Legal Resources | The Law Offices of Sterns & Walker
Worried about a friend?
Know the Signs
24 Teen Dating Abuse Warning Signs – Domestic Shelters
HOPE East Central Illinois | Domestic Violence Shelter
More Resources for IMMEDIATE Help:
National Child Abuse Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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