Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of domestic and sexual violence are not only harmed by the abuse their partners inflict, but also by homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic laws, policies, and practices.
On May 17 – the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia – the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) joins with anti-violence groups around the world advocating for policies and initiatives that work to fight these systemic oppressions and build safety for all survivors. NNEDV calls on all those working with survivors of domestic violence around the globe – including shelters, advocacy programs, legal services offices, first responders, and other providers – to ensure that both their policies and their practices create an atmosphere of inclusion that ensures LGBTQ survivors have meaningful access to their services and feel supported on their journey to safety.
Currently, members of the LGBTQ community experience domestic and sexual violence at similar rates to cisgender women in heterosexual relationships, but this violence is often grossly underreported [1, 2]. LGBTQ survivors are frequently hesitant to call the police, engage with the legal system, or to access services from local advocacy programs because they fear they will be discriminated against, will not be believed, and/or will be further victimized.
NNEDV applauds the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and its work to change this devastating trend. VAWA was the first federal law with an LGBTQ non-discrimination provision that gives all survivors – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – the right to access safety and services. As LGBTQ victims come into contact with providers, they should be met with consistent messaging that validates both their experience as a survivor and their right to seek safety. (This is true not only for LGBTQ-identified survivors, but for all survivors with unique, community-specific needs, including indigenous survivors, survivors in immigrant and refugee communities, survivors living with disabilities, survivors who have mental health concerns, and others.)
Organizations and individuals can take a stand against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia by:
- Learning about the unique forms of victimization facing LGBTQ survivors
- Providing in-depth training and discussion opportunities for staff members to learn how to support the unique needs of LGBTQ-identified survivors
- Providing in-depth training for staff members on how to determine if they are working with a victim or perpetrator (i.e., assessing who holds the power and control within a relationship)
- Conducting an organizational assessment, ideally with the help of an LGBTQ-focused technical assistance provider, as such assessments provide key information about areas that need improvement within the agency
- Learning more about VAWA and NNEDV’s Policy work
 The National LGBT Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/domestic_violence1/publications/ABA_LGBT-rights_Final.authcheckdam.pdf
 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Domestic Violence In the United States in 2007 (PDF): http://www.ncavp.org/common/document_files/Reports/2007%20NCAVP%20DV%20REPORT.pdf
 Tucker, K. (2009). Beyond the Wheel Bullet Points for The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/566c7f0c2399a3bdabb57553/t/566c9cdcc21b865cfe782711/1449958620775/LBTG-beyond-the-wheel-tactics-handout.pdf