Teen Dating Violence Among LGBTQ Youth

When we talk about major concerns facing LGBTQ youth, we typically discuss topics like bias-based bullying and harassment or familial rejection and homelessness; and when we talk about violence facing the larger LGBTQ community, we typically discuss hate crimes. In other words, we talk about the violence facing our community from those outside it, from those who are openly homophobic and transphobic, but what about the violence happening within our community?

As difficult as it may be to admit, LGBTQ people – including LGBTQ youth – can be and are perpetrators of violence as well as its victims, and too often, that violence occurs in the context of romantic and/or sexual relationships. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lesbians and gay men experience equal or higher levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) as heterosexuals, with bisexual women suffering much higher rates of IPV in comparison to lesbians, gay men and heterosexual women.

According to a 2013 report from the CDC, about 10 percent of high school students reported experiencing physical or sexual dating violence. Unfortunately, most studies of IPV in the LGBTQ community focus exclusively on adults, and most studies of teen dating violence fail to take into account respondents’ sexual orientation or gender identity. The limited data available on LGBTQ teen dating violence, however, is cause for concern.

One of the only studies on LGBTQ teens, released by the Urban Institute, showed significantly higher rates of dating violence among LGB youth than among non-LGB youth. While 29 percent of heterosexual youth surveyed reported being physically abused by dating partners, for example, 42.8 percent of LGB youth reported the same. The rates of sexual victimization for LGB respondents was 23.2 percent, nearly double that of heterosexual youth, of whom 12.3 percent reported sexual coercion. Transgender youth reported the highest rates of dating violence, with 88.9 percent reporting physical dating violence.

The Urban Institute’s study also showed that LGB youth were much more likely than their heterosexual peers to be perpetrators of dating violence. While the Urban Institute’s report did not provide much of a discussion of either the causes or effects of LGBTQ teen dating violence, there may be similarities to certain findings among non-LGBTQ youth.

Studies of teen dating violence have found, for example, that youth who experience parental violence are more likely to report violence within their own teen dating relationships. Dating violence during adolescence is generally accepted to be a precursor to domestic or intimate partner violence in adulthood. Victims of teen dating violence face a greater risk of problems like depression, suicidality, drug and alcohol problems, and re-victimization in young adulthood, problems that have also been shown to disproportionately affect LGBTQ teens in general.

What is clear from this limited research is that teen dating violence is not only a problem affecting LGBTQ youth, but one that seems to affect them at higher rates than non-LGBTQ youth. While we certainly need more research into the reasons for these disparities, it is worth noting that 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 LGBTQ-specific content.

This lack of inclusiveness allows for the persistence of myths that, for example, men cannot be victims of intimate partner violence, or that women cannot be violent to their partners. Moreover, these myths further marginalize LGBTQ survivors’ who may already be more reluctant to report their abuse or access counseling and other resources because they fear being discriminated against or outed as LGBTQ.

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 are some resources that serve LGBTQ survivors:

Love is Respect Hotline
1-866-331-99474 (24/7) or Text “loveis” 22522

Wingspan– serves people who are LGBTQ
Hotline 520-624-0348 or 1-800-553-9387 Bilingual 24/7

The Anti-Violence Project– serves people who are LGBTQ
Hotline 212-714-1124 Bilingual 24/7

GLBT National Help Center
Hotline 1800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743) or
Online Chat at http://www.volunteerlogin.org/chat/

National Sexual Assault Hotline – supports LGBTQ people
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 24/7 or
Online Counseling at https://ohl.rainn.org/online/

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline
1-800-832-1901