Abuse in LGTBQ Relationships

Power and ControlWhile similar dynamics of power and control and abusive strategies occur in LGTBQ relationships as in heterosexual relationships, LGTBQ identified persons face unique challenges getting help.
The “power and control wheel” to the right shows the abusive dynamics aimed at maintaining power and control within a relationship that are occasionally reinforced with physical and sexual violence (the outside ring). In LGTBQ relationships, another ring of societal pressure—homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and heterosexism—makes it more difficult to leave the relationship, and reinforce the abuser’s power and control over their partner.
There are several additional barriers to leaving an abusive relationship that LGTBQ victims of abuse may face.

  • Shame or Embarrassment: You may be struggling with your own internalized homophobia or shame about your sexual orientation or gender-identity. An abusive partner may attempt to use this shame to exert power and control over you. They may try to make you feel guilty about yourself by calling you names that play on sexuality or gender insecurities (like saying you’re “not man enough”) or pressuring you into sexual acts that you’re not comfortable with by saying that’s what’s “normal” in a relationship.
  • Fear of not Being Believed: You may worry that if you report abuse, you will encounter common stereotypes such as: violence between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, abuse doesn’t occur in lesbian relationships, only the physically bigger partner can be abusive or that LGBTQ relationships are inherently unhealthy. An abusive partner may exploit this fear. Title IX at UVA applies to all students regardless of sexuality or gender identity. You will be believed and taken seriously if you come forward for help.
  • 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.
  • Fears about Larger Community: As part of the LGBTQ community, you may fear that disclosing the abuse will make others in the community look bad by reinforcing some homophobic or heterosexist stereotypes. Your partner may even use this against you. For example, if your partner's not out, they may tell you that you can't tell anyone about what’s happening without breaking the trust of everyone in your group.
  • Loss of Community: If you’re part of a religious community or traditional family, you may worry that disclosing your relationship -- let alone the abuse you’re experiencing -- may make the situation worse. Also, in a small LGBTQ community, it may feel like there’s nowhere to turn.

Regardless of these obstacles, you deserve to be safe and healthy. See the Student Resource Guide or the Resources page for more information about getting help. You can also see the LGTBQ Center to get connected.

It’s important to remember that Title IX applies to and is designed to protect all students regardless of sexuality or gender identity. You deserve to live free from violence and fear, and the resources are there to help.

Content adapted from www.loveisrespect.org