Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager with contributions from HRC Foundation Children, Youth and Families Intern Jordanna Kidd.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has expanded its resources on LGBTQ youth, adding information on teen dating violence (TDV). While research on TDV among LGBTQ youth is quite limited, the data we have is a cause for concern.
In any form, teen dating violence does not discriminate based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. According to a 2014 report from the CDC, about 9 percent of high school students reported experiencing physical or sexual dating violence.
Dating violence, specifically teen dating violence, can take many forms. Whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it causes significant harm to those involved. Not only does dating violence take place in person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that dating violence can also take place electronically on social media or through text messaging.
In one of the only studies on LGBT teens, the Urban Institute reported in 2013 that transgender youth are the most vulnerable to dating violence with 89 percent reporting physical violence, 61 percent reporting sexual coercion and 59 percent reporting emotional abuse. Although transgender youth were under-sampled in the study, these figures are still alarming.
LGB youth also showed significantly higher rates of dating violence compared to non-LGB youth. Of the youth surveyed, 29 percent of heterosexual youth reported physical abuse by dating partners while 42.8 percent of LGB youth reported the same; 59 percent reported emotional abuse, in comparison to 46 percent of heterosexual youth; 37 percent reported being abused or harassed online or other electronic forums, in comparison to 26 percent of heterosexual youth; and 23 percent said they had experienced sexual coercion, in comparison to 12 percent of heterosexual youth.
"LGBTQ youth often have no idea that they are in a volatile, dangerous or unhealthy relationship,” explains Dr. Alex Karydi, a psychologist and the LGBTQI Youth Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. “Because LGBT relationships are only recently and still rarely visible in popular culture, they have few role models to aspire to in terms of what a healthy LGBTQ relationship looks like.”
Existing curricula on teen dating violence and related topics like sex education or domestic or sexual violence prevention education are rarely inclusive of LGBTQ youth. Only four U.S. states and the District of Columbia require school sex education curricula to include LGBT-specific content. Moreover, many curricula do not teach youth about healthy relationship skills or how to set and respect relationship boundaries.
“I see a lot of cases where these youth think that abusive or violent relationships are ‘normal’ because it has been so hard for them to find love and acceptance in their own family or community – they don't want to lose even one person who claims to love them," Karydi says. “In some contexts, their relationships are seen as sinful, so these youth get the message that any negative aspects of their relationship are justifiable or to be expected. It is our responsibility as individuals and a community to build awareness and education to protect our kids and future no matter what their relationships look like."
If you are a teen who wants to know if your relationship is healthy or if there may be some warning signs that could lead to TDV, LoveIsRespect.org has LGBTQ-inclusive information and an interactive quiz.
If you or someone you know is the victim of intimate partner violence, here is more information on LGBTQ teen dating violence, including resources that serve LGBTQ survivors.