People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer


  • This is a compilation of personal stories outlining the experiences of domestic violence in same sex relationships.
  • In July and August 2014, the National LGBTI Health Alliance undertook a national consultation on the direct needs and concerns of LGBTI populations who had experienced violence in their family and interpersonal relationships. Consultees reported (among other things):

    • Concerns about violent/homophobic family members were identified (p 15).
    • Intersex people may be afraid to seek medical treatment due to their physical distinctions (p 15).
    • Difficulty accessing ‘women-only’ and ‘men-only’ shelters (p 16).
    • People with non-binary genders reported being threatened with loss of custody due to their genders (p 16).
    • Women and men of trans experience reported being ridiculed and misgendered by police when reporting experiences of family and interpersonal violence (p 16).
    • Lesbian women and gay men described how stereotypes about butch and femme gender presentation were used to deny appropriate help in response to intimate partner violence (p 16).
    • Bisexual people of all genders described the invisibility and stigma they experienced when trying to report violence against them (p 16).
    • People with intersex variations described having been coerced by medical professionals and biological relatives into unwanted ‘normalising’ medical interventions that caused irreversible damage. (p 16);
    • Gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual people in mixed orientation marriages (i.e. marriages between a gay, lesbian, and bisexual person and a heterosexual person) reported being threatened by their spouses with ‘outing’ and loss of child custody (p 16).
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia (Report, 2018).

    This report usefully compiles and summarises current statistics on family violence, domestic violence and sexual violence from multiple sources. Its key points are:

    • women are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence;
    • some groups of women are more vulnerable to all three types of violence (in particular, women who are Indigenous, young, pregnant, separating from a partner or experiencing financial hardship and women with disability);
    • children are often exposed to the violence;
    • the three types of violence are leading causes of homelessness and adverse health consequences for women and create significant financial cost; and
    • family violence is worse for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    The report also identifies important gaps in the current research on family, domestic and sexual violence. No or limited data is available on:

    • children’s experiences, including attitudes, prevalence, severity, frequency, impacts and outcomes of these forms of violence;
    • specific at-risk population groups, including Indigenous Australians, people with disability, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, including those in same-sex relationships;
    • the effect of known risk factors, such as socioeconomic status, employment, income and geographical location;
    • services and responses that victims and perpetrators receive, including specialist services, mainstream services and police and justice responses;
    • pathways, impacts and outcomes for victims and perpetrators; and
    • the evaluation of programs and interventions.
  • Campo, Monica and Sarah Tayton, ‘Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbain, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer Communities’ (Child Family Community Australia Practitioner Resource, December 2015).
    This article discusses intimate partner violence in LGBTIQ relationships, and the ways in which the predominant focus on heteronormative understandings of abuse have resulted in under acknowledgement and misunderstandings of violence in LGBTIQ communities. Considerations relevant to perpetrators are discussed on p4, including the ways in which stereotypes about both men and women inhibit recognition of intimate partner violence in LGBTIQ relationships – i.e. ‘In lesbian relationships involving physical violence, for instance, there may be the assumption that women are incapable of exerting physical power over other women. Similarly, stereotypes about gay men not being “masculine” might result in views that they are not capable of violence’. It emphasizes, as a result, the importance of identifying the perpetrator, particularly in the context of specific behaviours perpetrators in LGBTIQ relationships may engage in, such as presenting at victims as shelters (p5).
  • Cochrane, Brandy, ‘Family Violence and the LGBTIQ Community’ (Research Paper, Monash University, 2017).

    This paper examines the LGBTIQ community’s experiences of domestic and family violence (DFV). Generally, the LGBTIQ community experiences DFV at a similar, or slightly higher, rate compared to heterosexual people. However, lesbian women were more likely than gay men to report having been in an abusive relationship, and young LGBTIQ people are more likely to experience violence in their relationships than their heterosexual peers. There are also unique pressures that may affect LGBTIQ people in a DFV context:

    • threats to ‘out’ a person;
    • the use of gender to belittle the victim;
    • homophobia experienced when accessing support services;
    • fear that acknowledgement of DFV will contribute to homophobia;
    • A lack of support from family;
    • homelessness;
    • an increased risk of HIV;
    • loss of custody of children;
    • viewing same-sex relationships through heterosexual stereotypes, which may prevent effective service provision; and
    • mistrust of the police by LGBTIQ people.
    Stereotypes and misconceptions about the LGBTIQ community and DFV can lead to issues and poor outcomes within the legal system, which highlights the need for greater awareness and understanding of these circumstances among legal professionals.
  • This research paper reports on the results of a study drawing on 65 service providers’ responses to a survey and interviews with 9 community members who were interviewed about their experiences of service provision resulting from domestic violence in a same sex relationship. It reports that negative experiences included being referred for sexual reorientation instead of domestic violence support, the lack of appropriate accommodation and other support services for men, and having to deal with the prejudices of mainstream service providers regarding men seeking support in relation to same sex domestic violence.
  • Fileborn, Bianca, ‘Sexual Violence and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Queer Communities’ (Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault Resource Sheet, Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 2012).
    This paper provides a review of current research into sexual violence in LGBTIQ communities. It provides definitions of ‘biological sex’ and ‘gender identity’. There is a section on intimate partner violence (pp5-6). Research suggests that rates of intimate partner violence in LGBTIQ are similar in to those in heterosexual communities. Notably, research suggests that in cases of intimate partner sexual abuse, the abusive partner may exploit broader issues around homophobia and heterosexism as a mechanism to prevent the victim/survivor from disclosing the abuse.
  • This study investigates the linkages between interpersonal violence, mental health, and sexual identity (pp 2-3). The results indicate that:

    • Compared to exclusively heterosexual women, mainly heterosexual and bisexual women were significantly more likely to report physical, sexual, and emotional abuse (p 4);
    • Mainly heterosexual and lesbian women were more likely to report severe physical abuse (p 4);
    • Mainly heterosexual women were more than three times as likely to have been in a violent relationship in the past three years (p 4);
    • All sexual minorities were two to three times as likely to have experienced harassment (p 4);
    • Bisexual women reported significantly higher levels of depression and scored lower on mental health than did exclusively heterosexual women (pp 6, 7);
    • Interpersonal violence strongly predicted poorer mental health for lesbian and bisexual women (p 6);
    • Mental health indicators were similar for exclusively heterosexual and sexual minority women who did not report interpersonal violence (pp 6, 7);
    • Experiencing multiple types of interpersonal violence was the strongest predictor of stress, anxiety and depression (p 6).
    Interpersonal violence is a significant contributor to mental health disparities for women, particularly for those belonging to sexual minorities (pp 7-8).
  • Leonard, William, et al, ‘Coming Forward: The Underreporting of Heterosexist Violence and Same Sex Partner Abuse in Victoria (Monograph Series Number 69, The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 2008).
    390 Victorians were surveyed in 2007 about their experiences of heterosexist violence and same sex partner abuse. Overall the report found that the incidence of abuse within same sex relationships is similar to that reported in heterosexual relationships.
  • In relation to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex and queer women, the paper provides an overview of the existing research at pp.27-30. Key findings include that, ‘[t]here is limited data on the prevalence of domestic and family violence and sexual assault for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender/trans*, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) women in Australia. Similarly, there is very little quantitative or qualitative research on domestic and family violence and sexual assault for LGBTIQ women in Australia or internationally. Of the studies analysed, a consistent finding is that LGBTIQ victims-survivors of domestic violence rarely seek support, information or advice on the abuse and violence they experienced and report struggling with identifying that what they were experiencing was domestic violence’ (p.30).
  • Rosenstriech, Gabi, LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2nd revised ed, 2013).
    This report is focused on mental ill-health and suicidality in LGBTI communities. It is noted that there is an elevated risk of mental ill-health and suicidality in these communities due to discrimination and exclusion (p4).
  • Safe steps Family Violence Response Centre and No to Violence, Submission ‘Family Violence and LGBTQI Communities’ to Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, 19 June 2015.

    This submission provides a good overview of relevant literature. Pages 11-13 discuss prevalence and note similar rates and behaviours of intimate partner violence to the heterosexual community. Barriers to health and other services are identified (p13) including discrimination and harassment. This submission notes that there are higher recorded numbers of LGBTI people using drugs and alcohol which has been linked to family and domestic violence (pp13-14). LGBTI people are over represented in homelessness populations (pp14-15). There is an overview of gaps in service provision for LGBTI people (pp16-18).

    In relation to perpetrators, p11 notes that victims’ fears of reporting family or intimate partner violence to the police due to past criminalisation of homosexuality may be used by some abusers in LGBTIQ communities to prevent victims from reporting. The submission also notes on p16 that identifies ‘unique contexts to the experience of LGBT family violence’, including greater numbers of women perpetrators.
  • The Queen v McEwen was the first successful use of Battered Woman Syndrome by a homosexual man in Australia. The characterisation of McEwen as a ‘battered spouse’ provided the framework for his provocation defence and his mitigated sentence. Simone argues that the case is significant for two reasons. First, Simone argues that the case raises a number of issues in relation to the use of BWS as a psychological and quasi-legal construct. She writes that, ‘[i]n light of the origins and critiques of BWS, it is not surprising that the expert evidence in the case against McEwen served to 'feminise' the defendant as passive and childlike, highlighting his own psychological failings at the expense of any analysis of the cultural or political context of same-sex battering’ (p.231).

    Second, Simone argues that this case also raised questions and issues about the ability of the legal system to recognise sexual orientation and homosexual relationships. She writes that the decision was ‘welcomed by some gay and lesbian spokespersons as an affirmation of the existence of homosexual relationships, rights and responsibilities’. However, she notes, ‘the flip side to this case is the limited basis upon which the courts are prepared to recognise sexual orientation, that is, to the extent that homosexual relationships are construed as replicating the gendered patterns and role playing of heterosexual relationships. In this sense, the factor of sexual orientation may well become merely a neat or bizarre twist to an increasingly well-told courtroom story’ (p.231).
  • This report sets out the findings of research into domestic and family violence (DFV) prevention initiatives focused on groups and communities identified as being at greater risk of experiencing DFV and/or having difficulty accessing support services. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) are identified as an at-risk group. At pp28-29 prevalence rates are discussed and it is noted that current data is unreliable. Key issues identified for this group include (p57):

    • Lack of understanding/awareness by service provides, insensitivity and explicit trans/homophobia;
    • reluctance to report to police;
    • lack of crisis accommodation for gay/bisexual men and transgender people;
    • concerns about trans/homophobia from other clients (eg in crisis accommodation).
    Specifically related to perpetrators, this report notes that ‘While some patterns of DFV in LGBTIQ relationships are similar to those in heterosexual relationships, others are more specific… Some lesbian abusers will present as victims (to shelters, support groups, and so on), in order to further perpetuate DFV against their partner by accessing them in these spaces, or by making it impossible for them to seek support at these services’ (p30).


  • Baker, Nance L et al, ‘Lessons from Examining Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence’ (2013) 69(3-4) Sex Roles 182.
    This article gives a very relevant overview of literature examining the context of same-sex intimate partner violence (IPV). It refers to a variety of factors and specific considerations for same-sex relationships, implicitly for both victims and perpetrators, throughout the article. See especially p187, noting that some research ‘suggests gendered expectations play a role in same-sex IPV’ – i.e. ‘McKenry and his colleagues (2006) found that higher scores on a scale of masculinity correlated with higher levels of violence among both lesbians and gay men. Additionally, they found childhood socioeconomic status was generally lower for men who used violence in their relationships. However, Balsam and Szymanski (2005) did not find a relationship between women’s status on the “butch/femme” scale and the likelihood of perpetrating or being victimized by IPV. They did find the same increased probability for IPV among individuals with lower socioeconomic status. These findings suggest that cultural frames encourage the use of physical methods of problem solving which may increase IPV’. Also see p189, discussing risk factors for perpetrating or experiencing IPV in same-sex relationships, including alcohol use, lower psychological well being, and other factors consistent with heterosexual IPV.
  • Woodyatt, Cory and Rob Stephenson, ‘Emotional intimate partner violence experienced by men in same-sex relationships’ (2016) 18(10) Culture, Health and Sexuality 1137-1149.
    This US study is the first to examine the types, antecedents and experiences of emotional intimate partner violence (‘IPV’) that occur between male partners (p 1145). The study conducted 10 focus group discussions with gay and bisexual men (n = 64 participants) (p 1140). The study found that gay and bisexual men perceive emotional IPV to be commonplace and the ‘most threatening form of intimate partner violence’ (p 1144-6). The participants identified the most common antecedents to be jealousy, power differentials, and internalised homophobia (p 1143). The descriptions of emotional IPV in male-male relationships is similar to male-female relationships, but some coercive behaviours manifest differently (p 1145). For example, threatening to disclose a partner’s sexual identity was identified as an example of emotional violence and coercive control (p 1145).