HRC Blog

Report Finds LGBT Victims of Intimate Violence Underserved; HRC Looks at Federal Legislative Fix

A 2009 nationwide survey of mainstream victim assistance providers and LGBT anti-violence programs found that there are widespread gaps in victim services for LGBT victims of crime. This report, Why It Matters: Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Victims of Hate Violence and Intimate Partner Violence, is authored by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The survey found that LGBT victims of violence do not have consistent access to culturally competent prevention or recovery services. It found that there is a lack of outreach to LGBT victims; a lack of staff trained in LGBT cultural competency; a lack of programs with LGBT-specific victim services policies and practices; a lack of collaboration between mainstream and LGBT-specific service providers; and a lack of resources to correct the barriers that prevent providers from providing LGBT-specific services. The report included the following real-life story as an example of the difficulty LGBT victims of intimate partner violence face:

In 2008, Davis, a gay man living on the west coast, was in danger when the abuser he had fled found him. Davis received a death threat on his car from the abuser, Jason. Davis had been with Jason for seven years. During that time, Jason was always controlling. He monitored Davis’ phone calls, wanted to know where he was at all times, and controlled all of their money. Jason also sexually abused Davis and, after one particularly brutal incident, Davis fled. Davis stayed with a friend that Jason did not know and got a job. He was away from Jason for a month before he found a note on his car from Jason that was essentially written as a contract on his life. Davis strategized to get to a domestic violence shelter. With help from a local anti-violence program, Davis developed an intensive safety and advocacy plan designed to keep him moving across the country to the east coast. Along the way, Davis contacted gay-friendly churches, local and statewide domestic violence programs, and a national domestic violence organization to find shelters that would accept men, and programs that would provide food, toll money, and gas cards. The national program provided information about local shelters that would accept men, but this information was not always accurate. Davis’ calls to statewide coalitions and statewide domestic violence hotlines often resulted in the message “we don’t shelter men.” With the help of the coalitions or by talking to supervisors, Davis could sometimes get shelter for a night or two. This process happened repeatedly during the 12 days Davis traveled to the east coast. When Davis could not get space in domestic violence programs, he looked for homeless shelters; however, due to the very recent sexual assault, Davis did not feel safe in a homeless shelter. After much advocacy, one particular shelter agreed to make arrangements to allow Davis to sleep in one of the beds that was in the staff offices; however, when Davis arrived, the staff person that greeted him told Davis that he thought that Davis didn’t look gay and looked like he could take care of himself, so he would need to stay with the rest of the men.

According to studies cited in the report, intimate partner violence occurs in the relationships of LGBT people at about the same rate as in heterosexual relationships, or in approximately 25 to 33 percent of all relationships. The report states that slightly more than 11 percent of women who had lived with a woman as part of a couple have reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a female cohabitant. Moreover, it reports a high rate of battering within gay male intimate partnerships, with 39 percent of gay men studied reporting at least one type of battering by a partner. Furthermore, transgender individuals are reported to experience a higher level of both intimate partner violence and sexual assault than any other group. Considering these statistics, it is troubling that the report concludes that LGBT victims of violence do not have access to appropriate victim services. The report recommends that any strategy to improve our national response to crimes against LGBT victims must include legislative changes to assure LGBT victims’ needs are recognized, considered and met. At HRC, we have begun the process of working with a coalition of advocacy groups to draft statutory language that would ensure that LGBT victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking would be included in any future legislative update to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In addition, HRC provided the transition team for the Obama Administration with our Blueprint for Positive Change [pdf] that advocates for the Department of Justice to issue a regulation stating that the criminal provisions of VAWA should apply in instances where both the offender and the victim are of the same sex.

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