Dating Violence in LGBTQ Communities

Research estimates that 25% to 33% of LGBT relationships are abusive (the same percentage as in straight relationships). Abusive LGBT relationships have the same dynamics of power and control as straight relationships, but frequently go undetected and unreported. Because of this, abuse in LGBT relationships can seem like a hidden problem. Attitudes like "women don't hurt each other" or "a fight between two men is a fair fight" can keep people from recognizing abuse. Some abusers threaten to "out" the victim to parents, friends or employers. A victim may be afraid to get help, worried that the police and counseling services will be homophobic and insensitive. This page provides LGBT resources and links for survivors and information on how to help a friend. Follow this link for more information on dating violence.

Are there differences in the type of dating violence experienced in LGBTQ relationships?

Dating violence is always the responsibility of the abuser, regardless of the gender or gender identity of the abuser or the type of relationship. But abusers may use a person’s identity as a way to abuse or control a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.  For example, an abuser may use threats of outing a partner’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status to further control the person they are hurting.  Individuals who identify as LGBTQ may face additional barriers when it comes to finding support and resources including:

  • Very limited services exist specifically for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
  • When LGBTQ individuals report abuse to a therapist, police officer or medical provider, they often feel that the abuse is not taken seriously.
  • Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia deny the reality of LGBTQ people’s lives, including the existence of LGBTQ relationships, let alone abusive ones. When abuse exists, attitudes often range from "who cares?" to "these relationships are generally unstable or unhealthy."
  • Shelters for abused women may not be sensitive to same-sex abuse or gender identity concerns. (Because shelters are open to all women, a lesbian victim may be afraid that her abuser will get access to the shelter. Admittance to a shelter is often based on gender and a shelter may turn away a person because they can't accomodate a range of gender identities.) Abused gay men have even fewer places to turn for help.
  • In LGBTQ relationships, there may be additional fears of losing the relationship, because it confirms one's sexual orientation; fears of not being believed about the abuse and fears of losing friends and support within the LGBTQ communities.

At Brown, we make every effort to ensure support services are accessible for all students. An on-campus advocate can help you address any barriers that you are concerned about to support your safety on-campus. Contact Bita Shooshani, Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy for confidential support, bita@brown.edu or 401.863-2794.

(Adapted from "Same-Sex Abuse")

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What should I do if I'm being abused?

It's important to know that violence/abuse is not likely to stop on its own -- episodes of violence usually become more frequent and more severe.

  • Talk to someone you trust. It is important to break the silence.
  • If you decide to leave the relationship, develop a safety plan. A safety plan can include asking a trusted friend for help, choosing a safe place to stay, and collecting money, emergency phone numbers and a bag of clothes so you can leave quickly.
  • Seek help from one of the resources at the end of this page. You can ask to speak with a counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse and has experience working with the LGBTQ community.

What can someone do if they are being abusive?

  • Stop using abuse of any form (physical, sexual, verbal or emotional), including threats and intimidation.
  • Accept responsibility for your behavior. Remember that the use of violence is a choice and you can choose to change that behavior.
  • Do not make excuses for your violence or blame your partner for your abusive behavior.
  • Seek professional help from a qualified counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse and has experience working with the LGBTQ community.
  • Alcohol, drug use or mental health problems may make abusive situations worse but they are not excuses for abusive behavior. Click here for help with alcohol or drug problems and here for information on Psychological Services for Brown students.

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How can I help a friend who's in an abusive relationship?

Many people in abusive relationships will turn to a trusted friend first. Here are some ways you can offer support:

  • Your friend's first step to safety could be you letting them know that they are not alone and that they are not crazy. Let your friend know that many people experience abuse and that there are resources where they can get help.
  • Be supportive and respectful. Make clear statements about your friend's value and rights as a person, such as "No one deserves to be abused."
  • Don't criticize the abuser. A victim often has conflicting feelings about the abusive partner. If you're critical the victim may become defensive or shut down. Instead, talk about negative behaviors by saying something like, "I'm really concerned about how your partner treats you. Nobody has the right to put someone else down."
  • Learn as much as you can about dating abuse. Use the resources below to find out about what help is available in the queer community.
  • Encourage your friend to make a safety plan if they have decided to leave the relationship. Your part in a safety plan can include walking home together, checking in at certain times of the day, and having a code word your friend can use if they need immediate help.
  • Do not confront the abuser. This can result in an escalation of violence against the victim.
  • Do not slip a referral card or any other information about abuse into someone's bag or under a door. If the abuser finds this, it can also escalate the violence against the victim.
  • Do not send a voicemail message or an email message about the abuse to your friend. You do not know if the abuser is monitoring the phone or the computer.
  • Be careful for yourself. Let your friend know what you are comfortable doing and what your boundaries are. You can also get support for yourself from the resources on and off-campus that are listed below.

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Dating Violence Resources

The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project 1-800-832-1901
This grassroots, nonprofit organization provides community education and direct services for clients. GMDVP offers shelter, guidance and resources to allow gay, bisexual and transgender men in crisis to leave violent situations and relationships. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Network/La Red
617-423-SAFE (Hotline in English and Spanish)
This program offers free services in English and Spanish for lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people who are victims of battering. These services include a hotline, emergency shelter and advocacy programs. Located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Psychological Services 401.863-3476
Clinicians provide confidential crisis support, follow-up appointments, and 24-hour on-call services for any Brown student dealing with violence in a relationship. The on-call counselor is also available to accompany a victim to the hospital.

Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 401.863-4111
Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Office of Student Life/Dean-on-Call 401.863-3800
Provides a crisis response system which includes deans-on-call.

Brown Department of Public Safety 401.863-4111 (emergency response)
Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may also direct any complaints to Public Safety's administrative number, 863-3322.

Brown DPS Special Victim’s Unit, Michelle Nuey, 401.863-2542 (non-emergency response)
This unit provides information and support concerning University and Providence Police reporting options.  Confidential services include safety planning, victim advocacy, court accompaniment and assistance with obtaining restraining orders.

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-494-8100
If you or someone you know needs help because of a sexual assault or an abusive relationship, call this hotline 24 hours a day. Counselor-advocates provide confidential support and are available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the hospital and police station. Ongoing counseling and support groups are available. (This hotline is specific to Rhode Island. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE if you need help in another state.)

Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy
Bita Shooshani, 401.863-2794, bita@brown.edu, 3rd floor of Health Services
Bita is available to help students affected by sexual violence and abuse in a relationship. Confidential services include support for a survivor or the friends of a survivor, help exploring options to address the incident (such as filing a complaint, if that is the student's choice) and educational programs for the student community. When you speak to Bita, you do not have to pursue any specific course of action and no action will be taken unless it’s something you choose.

Temporary Restraining Order Office
401.458-3372
At this office an advocate can inform you about and assist you with obtaining a temporary restraining order.

RI Gay & Lesbian Helpline 401.751-3322
Available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 10 pm.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY: 1-800-787-3224
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides anonymous crisis intervention, information about domestic violence and referrals to local services. The hotline advocates can answer calls in English and Spanish and have access to translators in 139 languages.

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Links you can use

Dating Violence
For more information on the definition of dating violence, the dynamics of an abusive relationship and warning signs of an abusive person, link to Health Education's dating violence page.

Sojourner House
24-Hour Helpline 401.765-3232
A local advocacy and resource center for domestic violence victims in Providence founded by Brown University students. They provide services and education on issues related to domestic violence including teen violence, HIV/AIDS prevention, elder abuse, and LGBTQ partner abuse.

The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project
This project is a grassroots, nonprofit organization providing community education and direct services for clients. GMDVP offers shelter, guidance, and resources to allow gay, bisexual, and transgender men in crisis to leave violent situations and relationships.

The Network/La Red
This program offers free services in English and Spanish for lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people who are victims of battering. These services include a hotline, emergency shelter and advocacy programs. Located in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Anti-Violence Project
AVP is a victims' services agency providing free counseling, crisis-intervention, and advocacy for survivors of trauma, crime and violence in the New York City's diverse LGBT and HIV-affected communities.

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Disclaimer: Health Education is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Education maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Education offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.