Research Blog – Dating Violence in Young Queer Couples: Is It Different from Straight Couples?
Written by Tyson Reuter, LGBTQ Health Psychology Resident with the IMPACT Program.
Dating violence is a serious public health concern, especially among youth . Prevalence estimates are alarmingly high, with 10-20% of youth reporting that they have experienced physical violence from a romantic partner . Estimates are even higher in at-risk populations (e.g., maltreated youth) or when considering less injurious forms of violence (e.g., emotional manipulation or verbal threats). Both physical and non-physical abuse are linked with poor health consequences, including depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, risky sex, physical injury, and future re-victimization [3,4,5].
Most of what we know about dating violence comes from research studies with straight youth. However, recently published research has examined dating violence in LGB youth and same-sex couples [6,7,8]. These studies show that although there are many shared risk factors and health consequences of dating violence between straight and queer youth, there are also some unique factors. Below are a few general guidelines that highlight the similarities – and possible differences – of dating violence in straight vs. queer youth:
- There are many possible pathways to dating violence. In other words, partners may act violently for a variety of reasons. Although we know from research that there are a handful of variables that increase one’s risk for violence (e.g., childhood abuse, attitudes towards violence, relationship satisfaction, and emotional distress), there is no single factor that always leads to dating violence. However, we know that LGB youth often have the additional challenge of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These can lead to increased stress, poorer coping skills, or less social support, which may further increase risk for dating violence.
- There are many possible pathways from dating violence. Similarly, whereas experiencing dating violence does increase one’s risk for poor health consequences, it does not always lead to a particular outcome. For example, one person may become isolated or depressed, yet another person may use alcohol and drugs, and still another person may have no such symptoms.
- Context is crucial. The environment itself can influence when and where violence may be more likely to occur. Location, presence of others, availability of weapons, and even temperature can have an impact.
- Some forms of dating violence are unique to queer youth. A good example is disclosure. If one partner is not out, the other partner may threaten to tell others as a means of coercion.
- Resources may be more limited. Seeking safety at a shelter, calling the authorities, or just having someone to talk to for social support can be incredibly helpful resources for someone who has experienced dating violence. Unfortunately, some LGB youth may not be out and, therefore, unable to turn to friends, family, or coworkers.
There are many similarities in the risks, consequences, and forms of dating violence between straight and queer youth. However, it should not be overlooked that LGB youth may experience unique challenges because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Teen Dating Violence. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html.
 Eaton, D. K., Davis, K. S., Barrios, L., Brener, N. D., & Noonan, R. K. (2007). Associations of dating violence victimization with lifetime participation, co-occurrence, and early initiation of risk behaviors among US high school students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(5), 585-602. doi: 10.1177/0886260506298831
 Exner-Cortens, D., Eckenrode, J., & Rothman, E. (2013). Longitudinal associations between teen dating violence victimization and adverse health outcomes. Pediatrics, 131(1), 71-78. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1029
 Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., & Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. JAMA, 286(5), 572-579.
 Temple, J. R., & Freeman, D. H. (2011). Dating violence and substance use among ethnically diverse adolescents. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(4), 701-718. doi:10.1001/jama.286.5.572
 Halpern, C. T., Young, M. L., Waller, M. V., Martin, S. L., & Kupper, L. L. (2004). Prevalence of partner violence in same-sex romantic and sexual relationships in a nationally sample of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 35(2), 124-131. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2003.09.003
 Martin-Storey, A. (2015). Prevalence of dating violence among sexual minority youth: Variation across gender, sexual minority identity and gender of sexual partners. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(1), 211-224. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-0089-0
 Reuter, T.R., Sharp, C., & Temple, J.R. (2015). An exploratory study of teen dating violence in sexual minority youth. Partner Abuse, 6(1), 8-28. doi: 10.1891/1946-65220.127.116.11