The LGBT Health & Development Program

Rise in Dating Violence in LGBT Youth

Posted on May 15th, 2012 by rachel in Youth Blog. No Comments

Intimate partner violence has been on the rise during recent years, according to a 2010 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.  This trend is especially concerning for LGBT youth who might fear discrimination by the authorities or outing by their partner if they report any such abuse.

Dating violence is controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior between two romantically involved people, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime.  It can range from dictating which friends a partner can hang out with to serious physical or sexual abuse.

In 2010 the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported an increase in intimate partner violence of LGBTQ and HIV-affected persons by about 40 percent since 2009.  Of these survivors, about 55 percent reported physical violence by their partner, an increase about 20 percent from the 2009 report.  This increase may be due to the greater number of survivors who reported to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in 2010, which was up 38% from 2009, according to the report.

However, these numbers might be under-reported for LGBT individuals.  People in same-sex relationships and people in opposite-sex relationships generally experience the same types of violence, but same-sex partners are less likely to report the violence, according to “Dating Violence Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents: Results from a Community Survey.”

“Sexually violent crimes are the least reported,” said John Garver, Anti-Violence Project therapist at Center on Halsted, located in Chicago on North Halsted St.  “There’s a huge barrier around ‘I don’t know how I’m going to be treated if my sex identity isn’t heterosexual.’”

In fact, just 7% of LGBT and HIV-affected survivors reported calling the police according to the 2010 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report.  This number was a drastic decrease from the 21 percent of survivors who reported having called the police in the 2009 report.

The lack of faith in the police may be justified, as survivors were arrested in nearly a fourth of incidents in which the police were notified, according to the 2010 report.

“There just seems to be this sense of victim blaming around queer sexualities and sexual behavior,” Garver said.  “There’s absolutely no place for that.”   There are reporting mechanisms for people who do not want to go to the police.  Many community centers and social service agencies have crisis lines that victims can call for support and referrals.

Particularly with LGBT young adults, whose age group makes up the largest portion of victims  (19-29 years old),there seems to be a disparity in help seeking behaviors.   Traditionally, LGBTQ youth do not take advantage of health services.   This might be partly due to a lack of trust that must be established with time before they decide to seek help, according to Garver.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be extremely difficult, but there are resources that can help.  “There are countless reasons why people might stay in an abusive relationship,” said Eva Ball, founder of Sexuality Health Education to End Rape.  “They love this person, they’re not ready to leave, or they’re threatened if they leave.”

There is a lot of self-blame in abusive relationships which makes leaving very difficult but people should know that it is not their fault regardless of how many times they might go back, according to Ball.  She said that it is especially difficult in our culture which often confuses violence with love and romance.  “Victims can’t stop abuse,” Ball said.  “Only perpetrators can stop abuse.”



Rosado, J., Jindasurat, C., Frazer, S., Mirzayi, C., Ahmed, N. (2010) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence 2010. Retrieved from

Freedner, N., Freed, L., Yang, Y.W., Austin, S.B. (2002, Dec 31).  Dating Violence Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents: Results From a Community Survey.  Retrieved from

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