In its January 2015 issue, Partner Abuse, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published by Springer Publishing Company, focuses on intimate partner abuse (PA) among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities. Contemporary research finds rates of PA to be comparable or between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and therefore a problem worthy of serious attention. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) national study (Walters, Chen, & Breiding, 2013, January), 43.8% of women identifying as lesbians reported to have been physically assaulted, stalked, or raped by an intimate partner at some point during their lifetime, compared to 35.0% of heterosexual women, 29.0% of heterosexual men, and 26.0% of gay men. The highest rates of physical PA were reported by bisexual women, at 61.1%. Bisexual women also reported the highest lifetime rates of expressive and controlling psychological abuse victimization (76.2%), followed by lesbian women (63.0%), gay men (59.6%), bisexual men (53.0%), and heterosexual men (49.3%), with the lowest rates reported by heterosexual women, at 47.5%.
While PA victims in opposite-sex relationships (especially men) are not always able to get the help they need, services for LGBTQ individuals are even harder to find. Research indicates that gays and lesbians involved in violent relationships seek help at a far lower rate than do heterosexual couples, partly due to ignorance and homophobic societal attitudes. In the United States, according to Brown and Groscup (2009), “14 states have domestic violence laws on the books that apply only to ‘household members,’ and six states (Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, New York, South Carolina,and Virginia) explicitly deny protection to gay and lesbian relationships (National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, 2005)” (p. 93). These attitudes are often shared by law enforcement officers, who may dismiss gay and lesbian battering as either mutual, or posing no great physical danger, and, therefore, not as important as battering opposite-sex couples. (Wolff & Cokely, 2007). In one national study, about 45% of same-sex victims who had contacted a hotline after being abused said that the police had been either indifferent or outright hostile, and 14.5% felt sufficiently distressed by the response to report police misconduct (National Coalition of Antiviolence Programs, 2011). In another study, LGBTQ victims who had previously reported same-sex PV victimization had significantly stronger perceptions of police homophobia than non-victims (Guadalupe-Diaz, in press, 2014).
Research is scant on PA among transgender populations. In the January, 2015 special issue of Partner Abuse, Julia Walker reviews the literature on a relatively invisible issue of IPV among trans couples. She investigates trans people’s vulnerabilities to IPV and reviews the literature pertaining to trans-people in relation to IPV and other violence, health, and public relations, as well as experience with law enforcement agencies and judiciary to help identify issues that can be relevant to this population. She brings to the forefront the neglect of provisions for transgender people and the societal transphobic and heterosexist attitudes that lead to greater difficulties for trans people who experience IPV. Walker suggests additional research is needed on the relationship between the criminal justice system and the trans community, and advises that transgender information is included in legal documents—but policy makers and service providers, she points out, still adhere to a heterosexist gendered view and until that is recognized these difficulties will continue. Loree Cook Daniels identifies how power and control interacts with our heterosexist beliefs and applies this specifically to trans gender relationships. Cook Daniels notes that couples with at least one transgender or gender-non-conforming partner have more commonalities than differences with non-transgender couples, but some of those differences are highly significant, and magnified by heterosexist beliefs about oppression, IPV, sex, and gender. Daniels believes trans people are also overlooked because professionals lack the information necessary to address differences of trans and non-trans couples.
Full references available upon request from John Hamel, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief of Partner Abuse, at: firstname.lastname@example.org