Domestic abuse experienced by LGB&T people receives little acknowledgement and visibility from the police and health services. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have experienced domestic abuse from family members or partners rarely report these incidents to the police, and of those who do more than half were not happy with the response they received.
Tackling domestic abuse requires action from the police, from the health service and from support services. This information page provides evidence on the prevalence and types of domestic abuse experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to inform these key agencies.
Stonewall’s research into the health needs of lesbian and bisexual women, Prescription for Change (2008), found worrying levels of domestic abuse in relationships with both men and women. Many have been belittled and made to feel worthless, and many have never reported incidents to the police.
This research showed:
Over half of lesbian and bisexual women in Scotland who have experienced domestic abuse from a female partner have experienced some form of physical violence. Lesbian and bisexual women have experienced the following in relationships with women since the age of 16:
Lesbian and bisexual women also report that they have experienced domestic abuse when in a relationship with men, including physical and emotional abuse. One in seven say that a male partner once forced them to have unwanted sex, and seven per cent say that their sexuality was used against them.
Four in five lesbian and bisexual women who have experienced domestic abuse have never reported incidents to the police. Of those who did report, a third were unhappy with how the police had dealt with the situation.
Stonewall Scotland’s Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey (2012) demonstrates that domestic abuse directed towards men is worryingly high. A greater number of gay and bisexual men have experienced domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16 than both men and women in general.
This research showed:
One in three (33 per cent) gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse in a relationship with a man. Gay and bisexual men have experienced the following in relationships with men since the age of 16:
One in four (24 per cent) gay and bisexual men since the age of 16 have experienced domestic abuse from a family member. Gay and bisexual men have experienced the following from family members since the age of 16:
Three in four (73 per cent) gay and bisexual men who have experienced domestic abuse have never reported incidents to the police. Of those who did report, one in four (25 per cent) were not happy with how the police dealt with the situation.
The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project and Scottish Transgender Alliance’s research, Out of sight, out of mind? is the first piece of research of its kind looking specifically at transgender people’s experiences of domestic abuse. The report found extremely high levels of domestic abuse experienced by respondents, much of which was targeted specifically at their transgender identities.
Of the 60 people who took part in the research:
“[My partner and I] had gone to a bar… I was chatting to [a] guy… he went mad, totally mad…it’s scary…I was very scared… he just snapped”
“She knew about my transgender status, at first she was okay about it, but then she started using it against me... She started threatening to tell my friends about it if I didn’t do what she wanted”
Of those who had experienced domestic abuse:
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone… But once you’ve been burnt, it’s very hard to trust people again.”
When asked about seeking help and accessing support services, over half of people had contacted a friend, relative, neighbour or colleague and 40% contacted a general counselling service:
Very few respondents felt confident in contacting the police regarding the abuse they had experienced. Of the respondents who had not contacted the police, 31% said it was because of concerns about revealing their trans status or because of fear of transphobia. Many respondents were uncertain about how to classify their experiences:
“At the time I did not recognise it as abusive. [I] Felt it was my fault.”
“It was only when the relationship broke up that I realised it was wrong… I thought it was wrong to be transgender and so could understand why it upset her so much.”
The Voices Unheard Project was established by a group of young people from LGBT Youth Scotland to find out young LGB&T people’s experiences of domestic abuse. The young people used peer research to find out about young people’s understanding, knowledge and experiences of domestic abuse in their families and relationships, by holding workshops at local groups and through a national online survey. They found that a worryingly high number of their peers had witnessed abuse in their families and had experienced abuse within their relationships.
Witnessing abuse in their families:
“I never told him, until I was eighteen because I had seen what he had done to my mum”
Experiencing abuse in their relationships:
“I didn’t tell anyone for a long time because I wasn’t sure that what I experienced was proper domestic abuse”
Of the young people who had experienced domestic abuse:
“It’s hard enough to come out under normal circumstances never mind if you’re being abused too.”
“Men would be much less likely to talk about it because people think it’s something that happens to women”
When asked about accessing services, 47% of the young people said that fear of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia would make them less likely to access domestic abuse services.
“I don’t think anyone would want to have help from someone who… looked down on them, because of who they loved.”
“I found that they [a women’s domestic abuse service] were sometimes insensitive and uncaring… I think the staff need to take more care of LGBT young people.”
“Some police still discriminate with LGBT people”
For more information about what to do if you feel that you may be experiencing domestic abuse, see here.
The findings in this briefing are taken from a number of Stonewall publications:Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey
In 2011 Stonewall and Sigma Research asked gay and bisexual men from across Britain to complete a survey about their health. 6,861 men, including 633 from Scotland responded making it the largest survey of its kind in the world.Prescription for Change: Lesbian and bisexual women’s health check 2008
In 2007 Stonewall and De Montfort University asked lesbians and bisexual women from Britain to complete a survey about their health. 6,178 women, including 514 from Scotland, responded making it the largest survey of its kind in Europe.Out of sight, out of mind?
Findings around transgender people’s experiences of domestic abuse are taken from the LGBT Domestic Abuse Project and Scottish Transgender Alliance’s research Out of sight, out of mind? (2010)Voices Unheard
Findings around LGBT young people’s experiences of domestic abuse have been taken from LGBT Youth’s Voices Unheard Project (2011)