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Family violence & LGBTIQ

There are additional unique forms of family violence in LGBTIQ communities. It is also important to understand the context of historical and contemporary discrimination and the limited effectiveness of applying a heterosexual, gendered lens to family and intimate partner violence among LGBTIQ people: for example, response models and interventions based on binary notions of victim/perpetrator.



A recent literature review by OurWatch has found:


  • Rates of intimate partner violence within lesbian, gay and queer relationships are as high as the rates experienced by cisgender women in intimate heterosexual relationships.
  • Lesbians are more likely than gay men to report having been in an abusive relationship.
  • Rates of intimate partner violence may be higher for bisexual, trans and gender diverse people.
  • It is unknown how rates of intimate partner and/or family violence against people with intersex people compare as there is a research gap.


Violence from other family members may also be higher, particularly against trans and gender-diverse young people. Some examples are:


  • Young people who come out about their sexuality or gender being kicked out of the family home.
  • Elderly, dependant trans women being denied access to hormone treatment by their children.

Structural violence


LGBTIQ people can experience all the dynamics attributed to heterosexual intimate partner violence, as understood by the mainstream family violence sector. However, they are also more likely to experience structural violence. For example, people in LGBTIQ communities can have difficult relationships with family of origin and experience stigma based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, choice of partner or family form. They may also be more likely to experience complex, stigmatised and often intersecting risk factors for family violence, such as: alcohol or other drug use, depression, anxiety, suicidality, neurodiversity, HIV-positive status, chronic illness or disability, sex work and homelessness. These intersecting issues need to be considered alongside increased vulnerability to family violence among particular groups of people such as young people, older people, people with disabilities, people with a mental illness or chronic health conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from multicultural communities.
Not only can this put them at higher risk of family violence, but it may also create barriers to help-seeking. These intersecting issues need to be considered alongside increased vulnerability to family violence among particular groups of people such as young people, older people, people with disabilities, people with a mental illness or chronic health conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from multicultural communities.


Sexual Violence

Within Australia, research examining rates of sexual violence within LGBTIQ communities is scarce and the rates of sexual violence experienced by LGBTIQ people vary across studies. A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that among the general population, almost 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. In the Victorian Coming Forward report, 1 in 20 (5 percent) LGBTIQ respondents reported sexual assault in the past two years, and in Private Lives, the rate of reporting sexual assault in the past year was 2.6 percent for lesbian women and 2.2 percent for gay men. It has been noted limited or problematic means for defining and measuring sexual violence in research may result in lower disclosure rates. Research indicates trans and gender diverse people are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual violence. In Australia, the Private Lives report found trans women respondents were 2.5 times more likely to report sexual violence than the rest of the survey sample. Internationally, studies reviewed by Our Watch indicate higher rates of sexual violence have been reported in trans and gender diverse communities, yet this is an understudied area of research (Scottish Transgender Alliance, 2010). Despite the dearth of research in the area, it is also believed rates of sexual violence experienced by people with intersex variations are the same or higher than non-intersex people. In the study Intersex: Stories and Statistics from Australia some participants reported the shame and stigma associated with their intersex status and/or related medical interventions “made them more susceptible to sexually abusive dynamics”. Our Watch cites international research which indicates bisexual women may experience high levels of sexual violence (Barrett & Pierre, 2013), with one study by the Centre for Disease Control finding that 74.9 percent of bisexual women reported sexual violence in their lifetime (Walters & Lippy, 2016).

Risk factors of Family Violence for LGBTIQ people

At present, there is no comprehensive or evidence-based framework to understand LGBTIQ people’s experiences of family violence, or a framework for addressing LGBTIQ people who use violence in a family setting. This is due in part to a lack of research and due to a default focus on heterosexual cisgendered men’s violence against heterosexual cisgendered women among family violence services. While there is currently no evidence-based list of risk factors for LGBTIQ populations, existing literature suggests some correlations between the following, and both victimisation or perpetration of family and intimate partner violence:

  • Discrimination and marginalisation (“minority stress”);
  • A pressure to portray LGBTIQ relationships as ‘perfect’ to gain greater social acceptance;
  • Heteronormative understandings of gender roles/sexual roles including in relation to parenting roles and expectations (particularly relevant to trans women whose gender identity is often the target of violence);
  • Lack of safe, appropriate services and support and/or knowledge of specialist services where available;
  • Greater social isolation experienced by LGBTIQ people, especially in rural areas
  • Internalised homo/bi/intersex/transphobia;
  • History of childhood abuse (which may also impact on likelihood of help-seeking);
  • Power imbalances in the relationship, e.g. in decision-making;
  • Lower level of education and lower socioeconomic status;
  • Substance abuse and misuse;
  • Poor mental health;
  • Financial dependence;
  • Co-dependency/reliance.

Barriers to accessing support

LGBTIQ people experience many barriers to identifying, reporting and recovering from family violence. These include:

  • The dominant understanding of family violence as always involving a cisgender male perpetrator and cisgender female victim leading to the invisibility of those outside this paradigm. This can result in a lack of recognition by mainstream service providers, bystanders and those experiencing violence to recognise family violence directed at and perpetrated by LGBTIQ people. Similar dominant understandings impact the visibility of family violence towards people with disabilities, young and elderly people and people in care relationships creating a compounding effect for LGBTI people who have these intersectional identities;
  • LGBTIQ people’s distrust of mainstream services due to fears or previous experiences of institutional or interpersonal prejudice, discrimination or inappropriate responses;
  • Fears among victims from LGBTIQ communities that their experience of violence may not be believed or validated (for example where a victim is male or the perpetrator is female);
  • The limitations and gaps in inclusive services and referral pathways: for example, the lack of safe housing options for men and gender-diverse/nonbinary people;
  • Services lacking an understanding of key issues for example:
    • Knowing the differences between sex, gender and sexuality and the impact of misgendering someone,
    • How to appropriately distinguish between a victim/survivor and a perpetrator in intimate partner incidents,
    • The legal rights of rainbow families.


1800 LGBTIQ | 1800 542 847