Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) people experience abuse in the same ways as heterosexual people. Domestic violence for same-sex couples happens at the same rate as for heterosexual couples. An LGBTQIA person may experience sexual assault or rape by their partner or a stranger. Sometimes a sexual assault against an LQBTQIA person is motivated by fear and hatred of homosexuality.

LGBTQIA people have additional barriers to getting help from an abusive relationship, or following a sexual assault:

  • Many LGBTQIA individuals feel the gay or transgendered community is a safe haven from hate crimes and discrimination, and so may have difficulty facing violence from someone in their own community.
  • If a survivor is not “out” she or he may be afraid to risk coming forward and being “outed.” Many abusers threaten to “out” the victim to maintain control. Or, he or she may be confused, embarrassed, and ashamed of the abuse.
  • Discrimination and hate crimes lead some survivors to feel their identity, and therefore their very existence, is questionable and so reporting may seem futile.
  • When a LGBTQIA survivor seeks assistance from the community or law enforcement, he or she may not be believed or taken seriously due to homophobia or lack of training/information.
  • LGBTQIA individuals generally suffer from greater isolation from family and friends than heterosexual people and, therefore, they may not expect support even if they did come forward.
  • Many people deny LGBTQIA relationships are legitimate which can be a barrier to reporting abuse and seeking help.
    A survivor of sexual violence who has HIV/AIDS may already feel a sense of shame or self-blame and be less likely to report an attack.
  • Internalized homophobia or transphobia may lead to feelings of responsibility (e.g., “This happened to me because of who I am.”). They may question their orientation and/or gender and feel helpless.
  • LGBTQIA victims of domestic violence are more likely to fight back than are heterosexual women. This can lead law enforcement to conclude that the abuse was mutual, overlooking the larger context of domestic violence and the history of power and control in the relationship.
  • Abusers can threaten to take away the children from the victim. In some states, adoption laws do not allow same-sex parents to adopt each other’s children. This can leave the victim with no legal rights should the couple separate. The abuser can easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help. Even when the victim is the legally recognized parent an abuser may threaten to out the victim to social workers hostile to gays and lesbians, which may result in a loss of custody. In the worst cases the children can even end up in the custody of the abuser.

For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at

For information on legal help for LGBTQIA survivors, visit

For local resources and support, call our crisis helpline at 989-755-0411 or toll-free at 888-399-8385