LGBT Abuse Victims Face Discrimination When Disclosing Abuse: Report

Statistically, the LGBT community is already more vulnerable to abuse and violence than the general population — and discrimination and other barriers complicate the reporting process.

LGBT and HIV-positive victims of domestic violence frequently face barriers and discrimination when they try to report their abuse, a new report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), found.

The report, “National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs LGBTQ and HIV–Affected Intimate Partner Violence in 2015,” analyzed 1,967 incident reports from 2015 that NVACP’s member organizations received regarding intimate partner violence (IVP). The organization concluded that survivors of abuse were subjected to criminal treatment and even denied services when they reported their experiences.

A little more than a quarter of survivors sought refuge at a shelter. Of these people, 44 percent were denied, with the most common reason being “barriers related to gender identity (71 percent).”

Forty-three percent of survivors interacted with law enforcement in relation to their abuse, and just 33 percent lodged a formal complaint. Of all the survivors who interacted with law enforcement, 12 percent described the police as “hostile” and 13 percent said they were “indifferent.”

In more cases than previously reported, the victims are mistakenly being arrested, rather than their abusers: “Misarrests of survivors increased from the 17 percent reported in 2014 to 31 percent in 2015.”

The responses are consistent with previous data, the report notes: “IPV within LGBTQ communities has not been integrated into the mainstream narrative on IPV, and limited culturally specific services exist. In a 2010 study by NCAVP and the National Center for Victims of Crime that surveyed 648 domestic violence agencies, sexual assault centers, prosecutors’ offices, law enforcement agencies, and child victim services, 94 percent of respondents said they were not serving LGBTQ survivors of IPV and sexual violence.”

The report includes several personal stories from survivors. One story, “Sylvia’s Story: IPV and Nowhere to Turn,” details the very real problems survivors face when trying to report (some details and names may have been changed to protect the survivor’s identity):

“I sought help from the local domestic violence shelter, but they could not guarantee my attacker would not enter the shelter. They had no protocol for LGBT anything. The last decade of my life would have been different if I had access to help. I didn’t need any special help just the same services offered to white, heterosexual women escaping from violence in their relationships.”

Victims More Likely to Have Multiple Minority Identities

The reported homicide victims were more likely to have an additional minority identity as well as being LGBT, according to the report: “Of the 13 reports of homicides, 77% were people of color, including 7 who were black and 3 who were Latinx.” Further, nearly half of the homicide victims were transgender, all six of who were women of color (four Black, two Latinx).

Survivors were more likely to be minorities as well. “Of the total number of responses for race and ethnicity, the majority of the responses were identities of color (54 percent),” the report states. Survivors who identified as Black/African American increased from 14 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2015, and undocumented survivors rose from 4 percent to 9 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Twenty-seven percent of all survivors reported having a disability, with the majority reporting a mental health disability. According to the report, survivors with disabilities, when compared to survivors with no reported disabilities, were:

• Two times more likely to be isolated by their abusive partner

• Three times more likely to be stalked

• Four times more likely to experience financial violence

Demographics of Survivors who Reported

Of the survivors who responded to the NCAVP, the majority — 43 percent identify as gay. The rest of the survivors are 19 percent lesbian, 16 percent heterosexual, 10 percent bisexual, 9 percent queer, 2 percent self-identified and 1 percent questioning/unsure.

Various racial groups identified as well:

Survivors by Race*

Race/Ethnicity Number Percent
Arab/Middle Eastern 6 0%
Asian/Pacific Islander 614 4%
Black/African American 307 21%
Native American/American Indian 15 1%
Latinx 356 24%
Multiracial 46 3%
White 631 43%
Self-Identified/Other 40 3%

*Note from NCAVP: “For these variables, survivors were able to choose more than one answer choice. The numbers and percentages reflect the total number of responses to this variable rather than the respondents.”

The majority of survivors were young:

Survivors by Age

Age Number Percent
18 and younger 95 7%
19-29 years old 469 34%
30-39 years old 414 30%
40-49 years old 221 16%
50-59 years old 134 10%
60-69 years old 29 2%
70 years old and older 3 <1%

Click here to view the full report.

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