Beyond male perpetrators and female victims

The keyword domestic violence is mostly associated with heterosexual relationships and a clear distribution of roles. The prevalence of violence in LGBT*IQ relationships, on the other hand, receives little public attention. Only in the last few years has the topic begun to appear in scientific studies.

On one hand, this may be due to the fact that women are indeed more often victims of domestic violence. But on the other hand, the lack of attention to the issue is also rooted in our stereotypical gender image and the ongoing discrimination against LGBT*IQ people. Domestic violence in non-heterosexual relationships is thus doubly taboo.

Violence has many faces

Especially the fact that violence is not always visible to the outside world often makes it difficult for victims to get help in time. This is because domestic violence rarely begins with a fist punch. Psychological abuse, which often precedes physical assaults, also falls under the term domestic violence, as do sexual assaults of various kinds. In violent relationships, the violence used often increases in intensity and various forms of violence intertwine.

More violence in lesbian and gay partnerships?

Violence is also not uncommon in partnerships that do not conform to the heterosexual relationship model. Studies show that people in homosexual relationships are affected by domestic violence just as often or even more often than those in heterosexual partnerships. Bisexual or trans* people are not covered by the already thin body of studies. However, it can be assumed that the situation within partnerships of these people is similar.

Men in particular rarely seek help because of the prevailing stereotype of the “dominant man. Yet homosexual men are just as often victims of intimate partner violence as women. A U.S. study concluded that almost half of all homosexual men – 46 percent – suffer from some form of partner violence.

In general, the number of unreported cases of sexual violence is high. For many people who experience violence in their relationship, the shame and fear of making their suffering public is huge.

Women do not fit the typical perpetrator image

If the violence is inflicted by a woman, it is often even more difficult for those affected to seek help. Because women do not fit the typical perpetrator image, violence in lesbian relationships is still strongly tabooed, and complaints from affected persons are often not taken seriously.

Women – in line with the typical cliché image – are often attributed a rather gentle disposition and a pronounced need for harmony. However, domestic violence is unfortunately not uncommon in lesbian relationships either. Angela Schwarz of the Vienna Anti-Discrimination Agency for Same-Sex and Transgender Lifestyles (WASt) further explains in an interview with the Austrian feminist magazine an.schläge that only three to five percent of those affected in lesbian relationships seek help. In heterosexual relationships, 20 to 24 percent do. Male victims of domestic violence by women also rarely come forward with their experiences.

Counseling services for LGBT*IQ-people are meager

In general, there are only a few support programs and counseling services that explicitly address those affected within the LGBTIQ-community. Even though trans women are generally welcome in German women’s shelters, the Frauenhauskoordinierung e.V. recognizes that there are “large gaps” in support for trans* women experiencing violence. The same applies to male victims of domestic violence.

The Broken Rainbow association, which advocates for lesbian and trans* women and queer people affected by violence, states in its 2019 annual report that “many clients have had negative experiences in general counseling or mental health care” because they experience discrimination of various kinds due to their gender identity. Precisely because LGBTIQ people often experience little understanding anyway due to their deviation from the binary or heterosexual “norm,” special counseling services and protective programs against domestic violence are especially important for these individuals. Help for those affected is offered, for example, by the MANEO project (for gay people affected by violence) or the gewaltfreileben counseling center (for women, lesbians, trans and queer people).