Experiencing abuse in an LGBTQ+ relationship

A version of this article was originally published by One Love.

Abusive partners in LGBTQIA* relationships—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual—use the same tactics to gain control of their partners as abusers in heterosexual relationships. Just like abuse in heterosexual relationships, abuse in LGBTQIA* relationships can be physical, sexual, emotional or even financial. And while the epidemic of abuse does not discriminate, it’s also important to acknowledge the unique challenges some victims might face given their identity.

Abusive partners in LGBTQIA* relationships sometimes use societal factors to maintain control over their partner. Also, when trying to leave an abusive relationship or access help and resources, LGBTQIA* victims face an added layer of complexity.

Homophobia and transphobia make it harder to speak out

Many victims of dating and sexual violence feel scared or apprehensive to come forward or report the crimes against them because they fear that they won’t be believed or become outcasts in their community. This fear is amplified among queer and trans folks, who have to also wonder if they will face discrimination and prejudice—especially when the assumption is that sexual and relationship violence only occurs in situations with male perpetrators and female victims.

Moreover, abusive partners in LGBTQIA* relationships may try to use their partner’s sexuality or identity to shame them and exert power over them. They do this by calling them names, playing on gender insecurities, or pressuring their victim sexually. Abusers will often try to establish these behaviors as “normal” for LGBTQIA* relationships to disguise their intention to control you.

Threatening to “out” someone

Threatening to reveal a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a common tactic used by an abuser. While some people are comfortable going public with their gender identity or sexual orientation, others may not feel safe or encouraged to do so. Whether it’s telling an employer, a family member, coach or friend – no person should ever threaten to disclose personal information about their partner without their consent.

Pressure to seem like the perfect couple

People of marginalized groups may feel as though they need to maintain a façade of perfection in order to be accepted by their peers or family. They may try to overcompensate for any predisposed stigma that people have against their group to protect the image of all its members.

For example, a lesbian individual may be seeking acceptance of her relationship from her friends. She may hide her partner’s abuse so that her friends do not form a negative perception of all lesbians.

HIV status can be a tactic for manipulation

While HIV/AIDS impacts people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, we know that queer and trans folks are disproportionately affected by the virus. It is never okay for a partner to threaten to reveal anything about your medical condition without your consent, or to prevent you from accessing proper medical treatment. In some extreme cases, an abusive partner who is HIV+ will threaten to infect a partner if they decide to leave the relationship. They may also claim that they will die or become more ill if their partner breaks up with them. Manipulation, threats and making you feel guilty are never okay in any relationship.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing relationship abuse, please do not hesitate to consult these resources:

  • The Anti-Violence Project: AVP operates a free bilingual (English/Spanish), 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis intervention hotline that is staffed by trained volunteers and our professional counselor/advocates to offer support to LGBTQ & HIV-affected victims and survivors of any type of violence. Call 212-714-1141
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Signs of LGBTQ Relationship Abuse. Their 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-799-7233
  • The One Love Foundation has a variety of resources, including lots of information about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

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