LGBTQ+ Resources

Recognizing Domestic Violence
in LGBTQ+ Relationships

Seen and Believed

LGBTQ+ Domestic Violence Awareness Day!
Tuesday, May 28th

Recognizing Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships

Domestic Violence (DV) is a pattern of behaviors that aim at gaining and maintaining power and control over another person. Coercive Control is frequently present in these relationships as well. This is a pattern of oppressive behavior intended to control someone and strip away their sense of self.

Domestic Violence tactics include verbal and emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Domestic violence may also be referred to as intimate partner violence or IPV.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can come in the form of constant criticism or humiliation, verbal threats, demeaning a partner in front of others, name-calling, yelling to intimidate, irrational blaming of a partner, withholding affection, gas lighting, love bombing, approval or appreciation as a punishment, obsessive jealousy, and accusations of unfaithfulness.

    LGBTQ+ specific emotional abuse can include:

  • Blaming the abuse on a partner’s queer identity.
  • Denying abuse can exist in queer communities.
  • Pressuring a partner to be “out” or to be “closeted”.
  • Defining abusive behaviors as a normal part of queer relationships.
  • Turning mutual friends against a partner.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse in a relationship can include controlling finances in the relationship, denying access to money, coercing a partner to pay for all expenses, stealing or destroying a partner’s property, or taking a partner’s credit cards, cash, or other resources and benefits someone is entitled to.

    LGBTQ+ specific financial abuse can include:

  • Threatening to out a partner at work.
  • Identity theft (easier when a partner is the same gender)
  • Demanding a partner to pay for gender-affirming hormones or surgeries.
  • Using gender roles to demand a partner pays more.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any forced or coerced sexual act or behavior such as unwanted touching, demeaning remarks about a partner’s body or appearance, minimizing a partner’s sexual needs, berating a partner about their sexual history, refusing to comply with a partner’s request for safer sex, coercing a partner into sex with others, or purposefully and repeatedly crossing a partner’s sexual boundaries.

    LGBTQ+ specific sexual abuse can include:

  • Using queer stereotypes to coerce a partner into particular sex acts.
  • Saying that women cannot rape or that men cannot be raped.
  • Using gender roles to control how a partner has sex.
  • Using words for a partner’s body parts that do not align with their gender identity.
  • Forcing sex in exchange for necessities like food or housing.
  • Convincing a partner not to use sexual protection because “LGBTQ sex is safer.”

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the threat of harm or any forceful physical behavior that intentionally or accidentally causes bodily harm. Physical abuse can also include holding the partner down or preventing the partner from leaving, locking the partner out of the home, or keeping the partner from getting help or medical attention.

    LGBTQ+ specific physical abuse can include:

  • Targeting a partner’s genitals or chest for physical violence.
  • Not letting a partner heal from gender-affirming surgeries.
  • Denying a partner access to hormones.
  • Public displays of affection in dangerous (anti-LGBTQ) areas.
  • Threats of suicide by the abusive partner.


The tactic of isolation occurs when the abusive partner cuts off the abused partner’s contact with other people. This makes the abused partner more dependent on the abusive partner and more susceptible to the abusive partner’s worldview. Social isolation also prevents the abused partner from seeking support from others.

    LGBTQ+ specific isolation can include:

  • Denying a partner access to queer community supports and events.
  • Causing dramatic scenes at queer events.
  • Outing a partner to their family, work, or religious group.
  • Convincing a partner they will be rejected by others for their queer identity.
  • Using anti-LGBTQ discrimination to justify an “us against the world” mentality.
  • Using bi/trans/homophobia as an excuse to isolate a partner from others.

Identity/Cultural Abuse

Identity abuse, sometimes referred to as cultural abuse, is using personal characteristics to demean, manipulate, and control the partner. Some of these tactics overlap with other forms of abuse.

This category is comprised of oppressions including racism, sexism, classism, ageism, able-ism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

    LGBTQ+ specific identity/ cultural abuse can include:

  • Saying a partner is “too much” or “not enough” of their queer identity.
  • Denying a partner’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Intentionally using the wrong pronouns or name with a partner.
  • Controlling how a partner expresses their gender or sexual orientation.
  • Defining what it means to be queer for a partner.
  • Using anti-queer slurs or endorsing negative stereotypes.

National LGBT Health Education Center