For 17 years, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has been collecting data on domestic violence in LGBT communities. They started in 1997 with a report that was the first-ever look at intimate partner violence among LGBT couples. It was an important intervention in the domestic violence movement largely defined by the ways that cisgender men physically or emotionally abused their wives.
When NCAVP released what ultimately became its annual report, it helped expand the movement within the federal government and departments of public health. Like most statistics on domestic violence, the reported cases were generally thought to be an underestimate because many victims don’t actually report their assaults. But the problem was especially hard for LGBT folks because, in 1997, 21 states had enforceable sodomy laws on the books that could put a queer person behind bars.
Since then, the language has changed, but the problem has not. Domestic violence, which in this report is also called intimate partner violence, is a catchall phrase that refers to “a pattern of behavior where one partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship,” according to researchers.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on intimate partner violence that included sexual orientation, but left out gender identity. Still, the results showed that LGBT partnerships were not immune to violence: 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women have experienced physical violence, stalking or rape in their intimate partnerships.
In this year’s report on intimate partner violence, NCAVP reports that 2013 was an especially deadly year for LGBT victims of domestic violence. By their researchers’ estimates, there were 21 homicides due to intimate partner violence, the highest number ever recorded. More than 28 percent of those victims were people of color. Of the 21 victims in 2012, 10 were identified as cisgender men, eight as cisgender women and three as transgender women.
LGBTQ people of color were more likely to report experiencing physical violence, discrimination, threats or intimidation, and harassment as a result of intimate partner violence.
- LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color were more likely to experience incidents of intimate partner violence in streets or public spaces.
- Bisexual survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence and 2.2 times more likely to experience physical violence as a result of intimate partner violence.
Osman Ahmed, one of the report’s authors, told me by phone that “how you identify is an important factor in terms of how abuse can happen [because] your identity can be used against you within intimate partner violence.”
Read the full report here.