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.

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 accommodate 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.

(Adapted from "Same-Sex Abuse")

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.

What can someone do if they are being abusive?

  • Stop using abuse of any form (physical, sexual, economic 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.
  • Alcohol, drug use or mental health problems may make abusive situations worse but they are not excuses for abusive behavior.

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

  • If you see someone being physically abused, call 911 immediately.
  • In many cases, the first step to safety is the knowledge that the victim is not alone and that they are not crazy. It may help your friend to know that many people experience abuse and that there are resources to 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 of the abuser, the victim may become defensive or may shut down. Instead, you can talk about behaviors that are negative by saying something like, "I'm really concerned about how your partner treats you. Nobody has the right to put someone else down."
  • Find out about the resources that are available.
  • Learn as much as you can about dating abuse.
  • 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 hotline card or any other information about abuse into someone's bag or under a door. This 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 below.

Dating Violence Resources

On Campus

State Certified Sexual Assault & Crisis Counselors on Campus

Caitlin Stinneford
Sexual Violence Prevention Educator
(831) 459-2721

Emily Crutcher, M.A.
Victim Advocacy Specialist
(831) 459-1053

The Lionel Cantú GLBTIQ Resource Center
Deb Abbott - Director
Tam Welch - Program Coordinator

UCSC Police
The mission of the University of California Police Department at Santa Cruz is to provide safety and security related services to the University community and to enforce all laws pertaining to orderly conduct on its premises.

Hate/Bias Advisory (Student Judicial Affairs)
The Student Judicial Affairs Office is responsible for the overall coordination of the student conduct process and policies on campus. This includes the interpretation of policies from UC General Counsel as well as federal and state laws that may apply to students.

Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)
CAPS staff provides the UCSC community with a wide range of mental health services, including short-term individual and couples counseling, group counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, and referral services.

Campus Conflict Resolution Services
The office provides professional consultation, mediation and training to members of the UCSC community. Its emphasis is on prevention, effective management, and informal resolution of conflict at all levels. All services are free, voluntary and confidential.

Dean of Students
Associate Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes is committed to direct communication and dialogue with students.

UCSC Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office 
Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office provides assistance in investigating and resolving complaints of sexual assault and harassment.

Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network (RAINN) 
This web site offers information and statistics on sexual assault and can locate a local rape crisis center in your area.

Rape Treatment Center 
This web site offers information on the impact of rape, date rape drugs, facts and statistics, as well as a comprehensive list of links to other resources.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center 
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center serves as the nation’s principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence.

Off Campus

Santa Cruz Police

Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center
Provides emergency shelter, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, and domestic violence diversion.

National Resources

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.

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE 
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.

The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project 1-800-832-1901
This grassroots, non-profit 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.

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.

US Department of Justice 
The Department of Justice publishes numerous research studies on domestic violence and sexual assault. This site also provides resources for victims of different kinds of crime, information on stalking and cyber-stalking and resources for parents.