Domestic Violence Awareness Month: LGBTQ Access to Shelters

A new report released this week by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that nearly half of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence have been turned away from a shelter, usually because of their gender identity.

All-women shelters do not allow gay men or trans women to stay in their facilities, and domestic violence shelters for men are difficult to find, forcing many of them into homeless shelters that do not have the services required to treat abuse victims. For women in abusive same-sex relationships, fleeing to domestic violence shelters can be a risky endeavor, as it is often difficult to restrict their partners from entering the same single-sex shelter.

The report describes the situation of a man named Jacob, who landed in the emergency room 12 times over a six month period due to his husband’s abuse. Hospital staff never inquired as to the frequency and severity of Jacob’s visits, and when he decided to leave his abusive husband, the only shelter he could find was thousands of miles away.

There are many additional barriers LGBTQ individuals face in seeking help for cases of intimate partner violence. These include fear of being outed, a lack of respect from law enforcement, or a fear that their abuse will paint the community in a negative light, retracting from the national progress that has been made.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 43.8 percent of lesbians, 61.1 percent of bisexual women, and 35 percent of heterosexual women, along with 26 percent of gay men, 37.3 percent of bisexual men, and 29 percent of heterosexual men report having been a victim of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

The CDC’s study is severely flawed as it completely disregards gender identity, causing many trans women to be misidentified as men who sleep with men.

There is some hopeful news for trans women though. Last month the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued the Gender Identity Rules, requiring domestic violence shelters and other facilities that receive HUD funding to admit people whose gender identity corresponds with the single-sex facility.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month, advocates and survivors come together to bring the issues surrounding domestic violence to the forefront of national conversation. We must ensure this narrative and understanding includes LGBTQ survivors of domestic abuse. Domestic violence is a LGBTQ issue, domestic violence is a feminist issue and domestic violence is a community issue that we are all responsible for stopping.

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