What are the unique obstacles faced by LGBTQ victims of domestic violence when they reach out for help?
LGBTQ victims of domestic violence may have to overcome homophobia and/or transphobia from service providers when trying to find help for the domestic violence they are experiencing. Below are some of the most common obstacles:
Lack of focused services. Few domestic violence shelters or organizations offer programs aimed specifically at LGBTQ relationships, so victims may either have to lie about their gender identity or sexual orientation, or decide to come out to the shelter. Additionally, not all service providers may be fully aware of issues specific to LGBTQ relationships.
Discrimination. LGBTQ victims have to deal with cultural misconceptions such as the belief that abuse in same-sex relationships is mutual (that both partners batter each other) and/or that abuse cannot occur in same-sex relationships. This misconception often results in dual arrests when LGBTQ victims of abuse call the police to report domestic violence. Additionally, existing prejudice and myths about the LGBTQ community can make an LGBTQ victim less likely to reveal any problems with his/her relationship because of concern about furthering an already negative view of LGBTQ people and relationships.
Lack of resources for LGBTQ. Homophobia and transphobia may make it more difficult for LGBTQ people to find housing, employment, or medical care, making victims more dependent on abusers. In addition, some states do not allow victims to obtain restraining orders against their abuser if they are the same gender unless they are/were married. See Can I get a restraining order against my same-sex partner? for more information.
Isolation. If the victim does not know many other LGBTQ people besides the abuser, s/he may feel isolated and afraid to leave the relationship. Especially if the victim lives in a small town where there are already limited supports for LGBTQ individuals, it can be even more difficult for him/her to find support.*
Despite these challenges, there are places to find help. For a list of local and national hotlines and organizations that specialize in LGBTQ domestic violence or are LGBTQ-friendly please see our National Organizations / LGBTQ page.
* This information has been adapted from information compiled by LAMBDA.
What are the unique obstacles faced by transgender victims of domestic violence when they reach out for help?
Transgender victims often have even more difficulty finding help and support for domestic violence than gay, lesbian and bisexual victims of abuse. In general, there is less awareness about issues specific to transgender people than there is about lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. LGBTQ victims of domestic violence may have to overcome homophobia and/or transphobia from service providers when trying to find help for the domestic violence they are experiencing.
Here are some of the unique challenges faced by transgender victims of domestic violence:
- Service providers may not recognize or acknowledge that abuse does not conform to typical gender roles and that people with any gender identity may be victims or abusers.
- Previous past experiences with healthcare or law enforcement workers may make victims more cautious about seeking out help, as victims might expect to face transphobia and/or discrimination.
- Transgender victims may feel uncomfortable going to a single-sex (“male” or “female”) shelter, as they may be forced to go to a shelter that does not serve persons matching their gender identity, or be unable to be served at all.
- The fear of losing custody of children may prevent a transgender victim from seeking out help for domestic violence.
- The number of organizations that specialize in transgender issues/domestic violence may be very few, even in a big city.
- Advocates and other public service workers may incorrectly assume that all transgender people are involved in S/M and therefore want to be abused.
- The abuser may be the only person the victim is "out" to, which increases the victim's sense of isolation and intensifying his or her fear of leaving the abuser in a transphobic society.*
* This information has been adapted from information compiled by FORGE - see "Transgender/SOFFA: Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Resource Sheet."
Can I get a restraining order against my same-sex partner?
Maybe. One tool that can be helpful when trying to escape from domestic violence is a restraining order (also known as a protection order, injunction, etc.) A restraining order can provide many forms of protection such as ordering the abuser to stop all contact with you, stay away from you, leave your home or face arrest and prosecution. However, not all states allow a victim in an abusive LGBTQ relationship to get a restraining order.
It is safe to say that in most states, restraining orders are neutrally available to same-sex victims of abuse - in other words, the law doesn't refer to the gender of the parties involved. However, there are exceptions. In some states, the law is unclear as to whether or not a judge can grant a victim a restraining order against unmarried same-sex partners. In other states, the law only allows unmarried intimate partners to get restraining orders against an opposite-sex partner. To see what the law says in your state, go to our Restraining Orders page and enter your state in the drop-down menu. Then look for a question with a title similar to "Can I get a restraining order against a same-sex partner?"
Where to get help for LGBTQ abuse
Existen varias organizaciones a través del país especializadas en ayudar a la comunidad LGBTQ. Usted puede encontrar estas organizaciones yendo a nuestra página Organizaciones Nacionales / LGBTQ. Si no puede encontrar ayuda o referencia de alguna de estas organizaciones cerca de usted, puede contactarse con la organización general de servicios legales de su zona a través de nuestra página Encontrando a un Abogado o yendo a nuestra página Intercesoras y Albergues para apoyo en aspectos no legales.