If you were to talk to the average person about domestic violence, they will probably picture a heterosexual couple where the man physically abuses the woman or the wife is verbally and emotionally abusive of her husband. Very few people think about the possibility of violence in same-sex relationships immediately when they think of domestic violence.
However, that doesn’t mean that people in the LGBT community aren’t also at risk of intimate partner abuse. Having been largely ignored by the public for decades, same-sex partnerships are only now entering mainstream cultural awareness.
Some journalists have recently highlighted what they refer to as a crisis of domestic abuse affecting the LGBT community. How common is abuse in LGBT relationships?
Statistics show that sexual preference does not affect the risk for abuse
Human nature is largely the same regardless of a person’s characteristics and preferences, including their sexual orientation. People get frustrated and can lash out inappropriately at those closest to them. Many humans blame others for their own shortcomings and become so focused on their own perception of suffering or unhappiness that they don’t consider how their actions affect the people around them.
Domestic abuse is often the result of someone’s unhappiness, substance abuse or untreated mental health issues. Those issues can be as prevalent and concerning in the LGBT community as it is in the heterosexual community.
In fact, research indicates that domestic violence occurs at the same rate, if not a higher rate in LGBT relationships when compared with heterosexual relationships. LGBT people are at higher risk for some kinds of sexual abuse than their heterosexual peers.
LGBT individuals fleeing abuse deserve the same legal protections
The laws about divorce and domestic violence in Illinois are gender-neutral, which means that they apply to people in LBGT relationships just like heterosexual ones.
A lesbian fleeing an abusive partner has the right to seek an order of protection. A trans man divorcing his wife can introduce evidence of abuse to the court as part of the custody proceeding in their divorce.
While it can be harder to come forward as a victim of abuse in an LGBT relationship, those who do decide to get out should connect with support and resources. Legal steps for protection and ending the relationship are an important tool for those hoping to break free of abuse.