Abuse can occur in many forms and in a range of relationships. This can include, but isn’t limited to relationships with a spouse, partner, flatmate or family member. Unfortunately, most domestic abuse support services are geared towards heterosexual and cisgender women meaning that lesbian, bisexual and trans women are often excluded or don’t have the appropriate supports in place. From 2019-2020, almost 30% of referrals to LGBT Foundation’s domestic service were from lesbian and bisexual women.
The UK government defines abuse ‘as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour’. Despite this definition, abuse among lesbian and bisexual women is heavily under-reported and often overlooked because it doesn’t fit traditional stereotypes of male-on-female violence. Some examples of abuse unique to lesbian and bisexual women include:
- Threatening to ‘out’ you to friends and family who don’t know your sexual orientation. This could extend to ‘outing’ you within your religious community, to your employer or in relation to other personal information e.g. HIV status
- Excessive jealousy when around people of the same gender – this could lead to controlling your movements, restricting who you can socialise with or preventing you from being active within the LGBT community
- Telling you that it ‘can’t be abuse’ because you’re both women or that no-one will believe you because you’re LGBT
- Forcing you to hide your sexual orientation or gender identity when around people who aren’t LGBT
- Undermining your sexual orientation or gender identity and reinforcing feelings of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia
- Can I be a victim of abuse if my partner isn’t male?
- Will I be believed even though I’m perceived as more dominant within our relationship?
- Will reporting the abuse impact my family e.g. access to children?
Bisexual women may have their sexual orientation dismissed e.g. hurtful comments that they ‘aren’t gay enough’ because they’re attracted to men and women. Similarly, trans women may experience abuse because they ‘aren’t woman enough’. Constant belittling and dismissing of your identity can be incredibly harmful to your mental and emotional well-being and over time can leave you feeling alone, depressed and isolated.
Cultural assumptions around abuse e.g. who is the victim, who is the perpetrator etc. are often based on heterosexual relationships. For many lesbian and bisexual women, this is barrier to reporting abuse. Research shows that some common concerns for lesbian and bisexual women around reporting include:
If you are a lesbian, bisexual or trans woman experiencing abuse, you are not alone! Despite the lack of supports within mainstream services, LGBT-specific services do exist for lesbian, bisexual and trans women, including:
Galop National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline
T: 0800 999 5428
Galop London LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership
T: 0207 704 2040
T: 0345 3 30 30 30
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline
T: 0300 330 0630