Putting domestic violence in heterosexual and LGBTQ+ households into perspective

By Brianna Canales and Helton Levy

After every March, the Women’s History Month, we move quickly towards June, the LGBTQ+ History Month.

This is the perfect timeline to discuss the obstacles that both LGBTQ+ people and heterosexuals equally face. Domestic violence strongly affects both groups’ households around the world.

While some Western societies come finally shown acceptance and acknowledgement of the LGBTQ+ community, there is a lot to say about other conflicts occurring within this layer of the population that go unnoticed.

Regarding domestic violence, public conversation often focuses on heterosexual relationships and households. Gays, lesbians, and trans people can also see themselves struggling in relationships and marriages, but remain without proper protection from the authorities.

In Australia, during the ‘Women’s Safety Summit’, there were calls for meaningful changes to the 2022 ‘National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children’. Advocates sought to include LGBTQ+ communities, who were left out.

In Britain, little to no recognition for same-sex domestic violence has been paid until very recently. After several years, the UK government finally stated this:

“Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background. There are different kinds of abuse that can happen in different contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in relationships. But the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse between family members, such as adolescence to parent violence and abuse”

(Magna, 2018)

Visible in statistics

Whenever one sees numbers of domestic violence, the main conclusion is that the highest number of cases come from LGBTQ+ individuals rather than cisgender, heterosexuals. This is the conclusion from the below data:

Brown, T.N., & Herman, J.L. (2015). Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse among LGBT People. Williams Institute.

A survey by the Scottish Transgender Alliance states that 80% of trans people experienced abuse (emotional, sexual, physical) from a partner or ex-partner.

These numbers lead to various conclusions. Firstly, LGBTQ+ people do experience domestic violence and sexual assault at alarming rates as many households in America and elsewhere.

Secondly, people in non-heterosexual relationships have also demonstrated more willingness to report their abuse.

That is what the England and Wales Crime Survey concluded.

England and Wales Crime Survey (2019)

Likewise, this Australian report centered on sexual health among gender diverse and transgender to find that 53% of the individuals surveyed had experienced sexual violence or coercion (2019). And yet, the Australian personal safety survey by the Bureau of Statistics has not given the opportunity to LGBTQ+ members to provide further information.

More data needed

It seems safe to say that others countries continue to minimise the initiatives and resources that could help to bring more awareness to the situation in LGBTQ+ households.

More data could unearth more realistically what happens in terms of domestic violence and, especially, bring justice to sexual assault victims.

The most relevant chain of support nowadays comes from nonprofit organizations. Provenly, executive policies and programs meant to protect LGBTQ+ communities can provide necessary opportunity, safety, and an increase in overall community engagement.

Below, we listed all kinds of data that continue to go amiss in LGBTQ+ domestic violence studies, but do exist when one looks at heterosexual families. These data challenges should serve as a guide for future researchers in the field:

  1. Intersectional data: Injustice within the LGBTQ+ community undoubtedly affects injustice to all minority communities due to the large and growing intersectional population that is invisibilized because of their LGBTQ+ status.
  2. The national situation of LGBTQ+ families: Countries, especially those in the UE, are grappling with unemployment. It is not too far from a leap to suggest that issues of unemployment and correlated social issues, can intensify problems of domestic violence and sexual assault and yet very little is LGBTQ-segmented in terms of employment and other demographic data.
  3. Conservatism and LGBTQ+ invisibility: In countries where a predominantly conservative culture exists; a definitive barrier against LGBTQ+ resources being provided by the government, what is the alternative for LGBTQ+ citizens in that area?
  4. Queer feedback on public governance: All citizens need to continue to provide criticism and push for a better government, but an LGBTQ+ critique of power is necessary in order to ensure that enough data is being generated at the public-service level.

Data to start action

The above points represent only a few of the actions that could help countries provide more data that prevent conflict within LGBTQ+ households.

It begins with the dispelling of the myth that domestic violence only exists in heterosexual relationships.

It also comes through the existence of appropriate toolkits of information and resources (surveys, census data, and reporting) that can empower members of the public to tackle these misconceptions and improve public policies.

Researching local action towards effective change is an essential start for many societies. The brief numbers discussed above show that gays, lesbians, trans, and queers are not alone in suffering from living precarious household lives, but, unfortunately, are forgotten by those whom they need the most.

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