- Does abuse happen in LGBTTQ relationships?
- How can a woman abuse another woman or a man abuse another man? Isn’t it just fighting between equals?
- LGBTTQ relationships and the law
- What makes LGBTTQ people vulnerable to abuse?
- Why don’t LGBTTQ people reach out for help?
Does abuse happen in LGBTTQ relationships?
Partner abuse happens in all kinds of relationships. It happens to people of all classes, races, religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. Even though relationship violence is often talked about in terms of heterosexual couples, abuse occurs in about 25 per cent of LGBTTQ relationships. Social isolation and discrimination increase LGBTTQ people’s vulnerability to abuse.
How can a woman abuse another woman or a man abuse another man? Isn’t it just fighting between equals?
Abuse is not about gender or gender presentation. It is about control and it can happen in any relationship. When abuse happens in a same-sex relationship, it is not fighting between equals. It is one person using power and control to hurt the other person.
LGBTTQ relationship violence and the law
In Canada same-sex relationships hold the same legal status as different-sex relationships. All of the laws about abuse in different-sex relationships apply to same-sex relationships. The information on this website applies to same-sex relationships.
What makes LGBTTQ people vulnerable to abuse?
While abuse can happen in any relationship, people who are newly identifying as LGBTTQ can be particularly vulnerable to abuse. Research in the UK has found first same-sex relationships as having a high risk for abuse.
A person in their first same sex-relationships is particularly vulnerable because:
- they have a high investment in wanting a same sex-relationship as confirmation of their identity and sense of self;
- they lack of confidence in what behaviours are acceptable in intimate same sex relationships;
- they may not have as many friends in the LGBTTQ community to talk to about their relationship; and
- they are new to the LGBTTQ community and do not have relationship role models.
Though much progress has been made, people from this community still face discrimination. Sometimes people face homophobia from their families, friends, or communities and end up socially isolated. Abusers can take advantage of this isolation to make the victim more dependent and less likely to leave the relationship.
Why don’t LGBTTQ people reach out for help?
It can be difficult for people who are in same-sex relationships to acknowledge abuse and reach out for help. This can be due to many reasons.
- They may not be “out” to all people in their lives. The abuser may even be threatening to “out” them as part of the abuse.
- There may be fear the abuse may not be taken seriously. There are myths about LGBTTQ relationships, like the idea that abuse could never happen in a lesbian relationship or that a gay man could not be abused.
- There is a fear of stigma. While Canada is generally an accepting society, LGBTTQ people still face discrimination. Sometimes people feel like they do not want to “make the community look bad” by talking about abuse.
- Agencies that support abused women don’t always know how to respond to abuse in LGBTTQ relationships. Though most agencies are now inclusive, there can still be fear about whether the victim will be able to access resources and support. To find information about agencies in Alberta that work with LGBTQ, go to InformAlberta.
- Historically, LGBTTQ people have faced violence from police and in prisons. There may be concerns about what will happen to the abuser if the victim calls the police. The survivor may also worry about being arrested themselves if they call the police.