Same Sex Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – reproduced with kind permission of Domestic Abuse Oxfordshire

Domestic abuse in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community is a serious issue. About 25% of LGBT people suffer through violent or threatening relationships with partners or ex-partners which is about the same rates as in as domestic abuse against heterosexual women. As in opposite-gendered couples, the problem is underreported. Those involved in same-gender abuse are often afraid of revealing their sexual orientation or the nature of their relationship.

There are many parallels between LGBT people’s experience of domestic abuse and that of heterosexual women, including the impact on the abused partner and the types of abuses such as emotional bullying, physical aggression, threats to harm the victim or other loved ones, social isolation, control of finances, extreme jealousy. However, there are a number of aspects that are unique to LGBT domestic abuse.

Outing’ as a method of control – The abuser may threaten to ‘out’ the victim to friends, family, religious communities, co-workers, and others as a method of control. The abuser may use the close-knit dynamic of the gay and lesbian community and the lack of support for LGBT people outside the community to further pressure the victim into compliance.

Abuse associated with sexual orientation or gender identity – For many people, their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes associated with the abuse so that they blame the abuse on being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. So they may feel that they are
experiencing this abuse because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or that if they weren’t lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender that they wouldn’t be experiencing it. This can therefore fuel feelings of internalised homo/bi/transphobia.

Domestic abuse isn’t well recognised in the LGBT community – There hasn’t been much information or discussion in the LGBT communities about domestic abuse. Most information on domestic abuse relates to experiences of heterosexual women. This lack of understanding means that some people may not:

  • Believe it happens in LGBT relationships.
  • Recognise their experience as domestic abuse if it does happen to them.
  • Know how to respond if they see domestic abuse being experienced by their friends.

Confidentiality and isolation within the LGBT communities – LGBT communities are often hidden and can rely on friends and relationships as support within the local community; this is often compounded when living in smaller towns and rural areas and can make it difficult for the abused partner to seek help. They may feel ashamed about the abuse, or their partner may have tried to turn others in the community against them. An abusive partner may isolate their partner from contact with the LGBT community by preventing them reading any LGBT papers/magazines etc or attending LGBT venues or events and preventing them seeing friends from within the community. This can be especially true for people in their first same-sex relationship who may not have had much contact with the LGBT community before the relationship began.

Encouraging Disclosure It can be hard for LGBT domestic violence victims to seek help because they may not want to disclose their sexuality to police or other organisations. Because of the general homophobia and transphobia in modern societies, LGBT victims of partner violence may be concerned about giving gay and lesbian relationships a ‘bad name’ and may refuse to speak up about the abuse they’re suffering. When
people do seek help, police and other agencies may misunderstand the situation as a fight between two men or women rather than a violent intimate relationship and therefore LGBT people may be discouraged from disclosing if service providers use language which reflect heterosexual assumptions – for example, if it is a woman and she has not disclosed her partner’s sex, don’t ask about her boyfriend/husband or use the word ‘he’ in reference to her partner. If her abuser is a woman she may feel that she cannot disclose this or that it mustn’t count.

Here is an example of asking someone if they are experiencing domestic abuse which is inclusive:
“There are some routine questions we ask all our clients/service users, as many of them are in relationships where they are either afraid their partners may hurt them or afraid of challenging their partner. Is this a concern for you? Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?”
The example above does not use gendered language, any wording which has been approved by your organisation for encouraging disclosure of domestic abuse could be used with simple changes made from references of ‘he/she’ to ‘your partner’.

Lesbian and Gay Power and Control Wheel. By National Centre on Domestic and Sexual Violence P&C wheel

What you can do if you are experiencing domestic abuse

You will not stop your partner’s abuse: only they can do that. However there are things you can do to increase your own safety. A
safety plan can help you protect yourself against future abuse whether you stay in the relationship, or if you leave. Safety Plan.

You have the right to be protected from domestic abuse just as anyone else does. You can use any of the services listed below to find the support and advice you need. However, some people might prefer to seek advice from a specialist support agency. You do not have to give your name. They will be able to explain your options and help you plan safely.

If you are worried about being forced into marriage forcedmarriageLGBT factsheet from Imaan LGBT Muslim Support Group

Independent Choices Greater Manchester LGBT Independent Domestic Abuse Advisor (IDVA). Our IDVA service works with LGBT+ people who are experiencing domestic abuse. For advice and support please contact our helpline on 0161 6367525 or email

GALOP provide the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans domestic abuse helpline 0300 999 5428 or 0800 999 5428, email
Greater Manchester Women’s Domestic Abuse Helpline 0161 636 7525 including Community Helpline Language Sevice for women of South Asian origin

MALE –  The Men’s Advice Line and Enquiries (MALE) provideS a range of services aimed primarily at men experiencing domestic abuse from their partner. For more information. Advice line for men who are experiencing domestic abuse 0808 801 0327

National 24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

The police take reports from the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community very seriously. Their domestic abuse unit will help and support you with your case. In Greater Manchester the police domestic violence units can be contacted by phoning 101

Greater Manchester domestic abuse website

The LGBT Foundation Helpline: provides free advice and support on a wide range of issues including domestic violence. A face-to-face counselling service is provided on a sliding scale dependent on ability to pay.
Hours Daily 18.00 – 22.00 0845 330 3030

Books for those in same sex relationships

  • Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them : Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence (1991)
    Island, Harrington Park Press; ISBN: 0918393973
  • Naming the Violence : Speaking Out About Lesbian Battering (1986)
    Lobel (Editor), Seal Pr Feminist Pub; ISBN: 0931188423
  • No More Secrets – Violence in Lesbian Relationships (2002)
    Ristock, Routledge ISBN 0-415-92946-6
  • Lesbians Talk – Violent Relationships (1995) Taylor & Chandler, Scarlet Press ISBN 1-85727-032-0
  • Violence in Gay and Lesbian Domestic Partnerships (1996)
    Renzetti & Miley (Editors), Harrington Park Press ISBN 1-056023-074-6
  • Violent Betrayal Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships (1992)
    Renzetti, Sage Publications Inc (USA); ISBN: 0803938888