Domestic Violence as a Queer and Trans Public Health Issue

By Alexis Canfield

Each year we recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In this month, we try to bring awareness to those who have been impacted by domestic and interpersonal violence, give them a place to tell their stories, and hopefully inspire change. The National Coalition against Domestic Violence (n.d.) defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetuated by one intimate partner against another.”  According to studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2017) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (2017), 1 in 4 women, 1 in 9 men, and 1 in 2 trans people will experience domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV), in their lifetimes. At STAR, we specialize in working with survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones, and these two topics often intertwine.

IPV affects all populations, regardless of race, gender, income, and sexual orientation. Forms of abuse can include physical, emotional, sexual, and financial as well as stalking. There is not a type that is better or worse than the others. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (2017) has a list of warning signs to look out for. It is important to note that one or two of these does not necessarily indicate an abusive relationship, but when put together could be an indicator. Some of these red flags for abusive partners can include:

  • A person wanting to moving quickly in a relationship
  • A partner insisting that you stop spending time with friends or family, keeping you to themselves
  • A partner that criticizes or puts you down, says that you are ‘crazy,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘unworthy,’ etc.
  • A partner that takes your money, gives you a set allowance, or runs up your credit card
  • Someone that does not take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors, blames others
  • Someone that has a history of abusing others

The characteristics listed above are things that may be found in many different types of relationships. However, there are also ways that IPV shows itself in specific ways based on the identities of the abuser and victim. This includes the LGBTQ+ community.  Those who are in same sex relationships are just as likely to find themselves in an abusive relationship as a heterosexual couple. Here are some specific warning signs and tactics that may be used (American Progress, 2011):

  • Threatening to “out” a partner, or disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to family, friends, work, or others; this could cause isolation, psychological harm, and even be dangerous depending upon who they are threatening to tell
  • Refusing to use a partner’s pronouns and/or demeaning them and their identity
  • Threatening that law enforcement will not believe them
  • If the couple has children, threatening that they will be taken away or removed; state laws regarding adoption and parent rights vary and in many same sex relationships one of the parents may not be included in the documentation

Below is the Power and Control Wheel for LGBTQ+ Survivors that outlines additional abusive behaviors.

In addition to these warning signs, there are specific barriers that may impact someone in a queer relationship from seeking assistance. The political and religious climate in Louisiana can cause people to be hostile towards queer and trans people, and it may be difficult for survivors to trust that organizations or law enforcement will be queer and trans friendly. For queer and trans people of color, especially, there may be a lack of trust that law enforcement will listen and be a safe option for them to utilize.  Additionally, LGBTQ+ communities can be small and tight-knit. There may be added concerns about becoming isolated from the community by leaving their partner or seeking assistance. These additional barriers can make it even more difficult to make the already challenging process of leaving a partner.

Because of the prevalence of this issue and the unique barriers it causes for the LGBTQ+ community, it is critical for organizations serving domestic violence survivors to educate themselves on the oppression faced by LGBTQ+ people and make it publicly known that they support and serve queer and trans survivors. It is never a victims fault for being in the place that they are, and it is the responsibility of us as a community to support, validate, and address the problems facing every victim. As we remember and recognize those who are impacted by IPV this October, let’s make sure that we continue to be critical of our existing systems and inclusive to all identities that are affected.

If you or someone that you know is in an abusive relationship, or seeking additional information here are a few organizations to contact:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • Trevor LifeLine, an LGBTQ specific hotline for young people ages 10-19: 1-866-488-7386




American Progress. (2011, June 14). Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community. Retrieved from

Center for Disease Control. (2017, April 28). NISVS Infographic. Retrieved from (2017, April 16). Domestic Violence in the Transgender Community. Retrieved from

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). What is Domestic Violence? Retrieved from

NNEDV. (2017). Red Flags of Abuse. Retrieved from


One thought on “Domestic Violence as a Queer and Trans Public Health Issue

  1. Excellent post to highlight some of the barriers the lgbtq+ community faces. Very aligned with my personal story as a survivor of same-sex IPV!!

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