Along with being Halloween month, October recognizes something much more important. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).
DVAM came to be in October 1987. Since then, it’s become an important annual reminder of just how pervasive intimate partner violence is — including in the LGBTQ community. It’s also an important time to bring awareness to the many resources available to survivors.
Domestic violence in the queer community
Abusive partners, no matter what orientation, use common tactics to gain control over their partners. Even LGBTQ partners take advantage of societal barriers to gain control in abusive relationships.
Homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia — external and internalized — add barriers for victims and survivors of domestic violence to seek help.
Nearly 85% of victim advocates surveyed by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported having worked with an LGBTQ survivor who was denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Abusers may use the threat of outing their partner, their HIV status and public scrutiny to manipulate them.
One in 10 LGBTQ folks are survivors of intimate partner violence, many of whom have experienced sexual assault. HRC also reports that around 50% of bisexual people and transgender people have been sexually abused at one point in their lives.
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that LGBTQ people are more at risk of violence, specifically intimate partner abuse and sexual violence, than non-LGBTQ people.
The numbers are disturbing:
- Almost 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.
- 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.
But domestic violence involves more than these physical actions we often think of.
What is financial abuse?
Intimate partner violence, as defined by the CDC, is any “abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship.” This abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional and even financial; or any or all of these at once.
Many people don’t realize the dangers financial can pose. A study conducted by DomesticShelters.org discovered finances were the second most common barrier survivors faced when trying to leave an abusive situation. (The first was having nowhere to go.)
Financial abuse could look like:
- Sabotaging employment opportunities.
- Forbidding a partner from working.
- Denying a partner direct access to bank accounts.
- Setting an “allowance.”
- Forcing a partner to write bad checks.
- Running up large debts on joint accounts.
- Withholding money for basic necessities.
- Not letting you treat yourself, but they can.
- Forcing a partner to work while they control the money.
- Forcing a partner to turn over paychecks.
- Forcing a partner to work in the family business without payment.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The reality can be wildly complex, and you might not even recognize abusive behavior as out of the norm.
Lesbian women and transgender people experience the highest levels of financial abuse, according to a report by Interventions Alliance.
Preparing to leave an abusive relationship
DomesticShelters.org recommends these steps to leave an abusive relationship safely and set yourself up for success once you leave:
- Gather documents to ensure access to everything you need, such as:
- PIN codes
- Copies of credit reports.
- Printouts of any financial records or bank accounts.
- Birth certificates for yourself and your children.
- Your driver’s license.
- Your Social Security number
- Tax records.
- Set up your own accounts on the down-low, and have information sent to a trusted friend or loved one.
- Stash away some cash soon and as secret as you can.
- Change beneficiaries as soon as possible to a trusted friend or loved on for your individual health insurance plan, life insurance, 401(k) or other retirement accounts.
- Make a budget that includes savings in your new account, so when you’re ready to leave, you have money to your name to cover living expenses.
Report domestic violence in the queer community
Despite the high numbers, we know the LGBTQ community is still underrepresented by domestic violence data — which means we’re underserved by domestic violence services.
The Interventions Alliance report suggests rates of under-reporting within the LGBTQ community are between 60% and 80%. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
If you or a loved one is in peril or in need of help, here are some resources:
- The Anti-Violence Project: AVP operates a free bilingual (English/Spanish), 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis intervention hotline. It’s staffed by trained volunteers, professional counselors and advocates to offer support to LGBTQ and HIV-affected victims and survivors of any type of violence. Call anytime: (212) 714-1141.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Their 24-hour hotline number is (800) 799-7233.
- Compensation Compass: As a survivor of domestic violence, you could be due compensation. This form from FreeFrom, an advocate against financial abuse for queer, trans, im/migrant and BIPOC survivors, helps you understand your options.
- The Hotline offers multiple options to receive help, including its hotline at (800) 799-7233, live chat and text support by texting “START” to 88788.
- Love is Respect offers a hotline at (866) 331-9474, live chat and text support by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522.
- The LGBT National Help Center offers a plethora of options, including multiple hotlines, peer support and safe chatrooms.
- The Network/La Red offers support through their toll-free hotline at (800) 832-1901.
- The NW Network offers free and confidential support for “bi, trans, lesbian and gay survivors of abuse.”
No one deserves to experience abuse. We all deserve to be in a safe, happy and loving relationship. And remember that you deserve freedom, including financial freedom.
These are your rights, no matter your orientation or identity.
Delilah Gray is a freelance writer and business owner based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s been featured in Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Insider and POPSUGAR, to name a few.
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