16 Days of Activism: Domestic Abuse in the LGBT+ Community: Are We Doing Enough?  

December 9, 2021

Robert Povall

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign nears its conclusion, it is important to reflect upon one of the communities most disproportionately affected by domestic abuse – the LGBT+ community.

There is increasing recognition that domestic abuse takes place outside the heteronormative paradigm of social life.[1]

Some statistics:

  • Almost 80% of trans people had experienced abuse from a partner or ex-partner.[2]
  • Bisexual women are almost twice as likely to be abused as heterosexual women.[3]
  • Sexual minority respondents report levels of intimate partner violence at rates equal to or higher than those of heterosexuals, including 37% of bisexual men and 26% of gay men experiencing rape, physical violence and/or stalking.[4]
  • Among rape victims, bisexual women experience rape earlier in life compared to heterosexual women.[5]
  • Domestic abuse is a ‘sizeable problem’ in same sexual relationships, many victims do not recognise abuse when it happens, and men underreport rape because they struggle to name their experience as such.[6]

Is society to blame?

Arbitrary societal norms which dictate what we should look like, how we should behave, how we should live our lives, or who we should love, often perpetuated by religious organizations and right-wing forces, puts those who do not fit within these narrowly defined definitions are at risk of gender-based violence.[7]

Domestic abuse within same-sex relationships is a significant problem but also one which is acutely underreported. Indeed, many male survivors of abuse, particularly that of a sexual nature, report difficulty in recognising it, let alone seeking support for it.

But is there a wider societal context at play?

Jurisdictions which criminalise LGBT+[8]:

  • 71 still criminalise private, consensual same-sex sexual activity, 43 criminalise the same between women.
  • 15 criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people.[9]
  • 11 have the death penalty as a potential punishment for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity.

Could it be the case that cultural and religious attitudes to homosexuality which, in some jurisdictions, includes its criminalisation, are fostering a higher likelihood of abusive behaviour both in perpetrators acting out of internalised homophobia and survivors failing to recognise abuse given their own adverse life experiences? Yes, in my view.

But what can you do?

If we take anything from the 16 Days of Activism campaign, it is the reminder that only by working together can we hope to eradicate abuse, and this includes after 10th December.

It is incumbent upon society at large to stand up to abuse wherever possible, irrespective of the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim. In doing so, can abusers be confronted with the fact that their behaviour will not be accepted, and can survivors feel seen, and understand that they deserve better.


[1] Breaking down barriers: exploring the potential for social care practice with trans survivors of domestic abuse, Michaela Rogers (9 February 2015)

[2] Out of sight, out of mind? Transgender People’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse, Scottish Transgender Alliance (August 2010).

[3] NISVS: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation, NISVS (January 2013).

[4]  NISVS: An Overview of 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation, NISVS (January 2013).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Comparing Domestic Abuse in Same Sex and Heterosexual Relationships, Catherine Donovan et al (November 2006)

[7] 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, OutRight Action International (22 November 2019).

[8] Map of Countries that Criminalise LGBT People, Human Dignity Trust (2021)

[9] Ibid.