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At Greater Risk - Transgender and Domestic Violence

While domestic violence affects every population, the transgender community is victimized at a higher rate. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 30%-50% of transgender people experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. That is a big difference from the 28%-33% in the general population.

What types of abuse are transgender individuals experiencing?

Transgender survivors are more like to experiences threats or intimidation, harassment, and police violence within intimate partner violence. Specific forms of abuse that occur in a relationship where a partner is transgender can include:

  • Using offensive pronouns such as “it” to refer to the transgender partner

  • Ridiculing the transgender partner’s body and/or appearance

  • Telling the transgender partner that he or she is not a real man or woman

  • Ridiculing the transgender partner’s identity as “bisexual,” “trans,” “femme,” “butch,” “genderqueer,” etc.

What barriers do transgender individuals have? Many transgender individuals have been subjected to abuse from a young age. They may have been rejected by their family for their gender identity, been subjected to emotional abuse because of who they are, or been told that who they are is not acceptable.

Discrimination and oppression against transgender people often lead to separation and lack of family support. For many transgenders calling the police is not really a safe option. Individuals in these situations often lack avenues for assistance, and without family, friends, or even law enforcement to turn to, it is easy to see how someone can become a target of violence and abuse. Transgender individuals are also often afraid to come forward and disclose abuse in their relationship. Some have had negative reactions from medical and social service providers, and many in the transgender community are unaware their experiences are domestic violence.

If you are concerned about a friend or a family member, common red flags to be aware of include:

  • Does it seem as if your friend cannot be an individual apart from the relationship, where their partner is involved in any or all of their decisions?

  • Does your friend’s partner seem jealous or possessive?

  • Does your friend’s partner email, text, or call constantly during the day? Does their partner demand to know where your friend is and whom they are with?

  • Has your friend’s mood or behavior change dramatically?

  • Is your friend exhibiting an exaggerated startle response and/or suffering from panic attacks?

Here are a few simple ways you can support a survivor:

Listen closely, believe the survivor, and tell them the abuse is never their fault.

The goal should always be to work toward a safer place. There are ways to mitigate harm if the survivor chooses not to leave the relationship.

Never tell a survivor what they should do, rather help them explore options and decide what feels right for them. For example, ask them if they would like your help finding a therapist who has experience working with LGBT clients and in trauma-informed practice.

Ending an abusive relationship can be dangerous for the survivor, and survivors are best served by safety planning with an advocate or friend or a family member they feel they can trust.

Violence Prevention Center's 24-hour Hotline: 618-236-2531

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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