• Sara Sheikh-Oleslami

Addressing Intimate Partner Violence

What is Intimate Partner Violence? (IPV)

IPV is an international epidemic. It includes domestic violence, violence within intimate relationships, dating violence, as well as partner abuse. It occurs when one partner isolates, dominates, manipulates, or coerces the other to maintain control over both their partner and the relationship.

The tactics abusive partners use to maintain control over their partners is not only limited to physical violence. In can include psychological and emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, cultural abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, and isolation.

There remains a great deal of silence surrounding IPV. It affects countless people but is not considered a high priority social issue. This is especially true for more marginalized communities, including many LGBTQ and HIV-affected people. The conversations that do take place are facilitated in heteronormative contexts, with the focus of men’s violence against women, but IPV can take many forms.

There is a dire need for a cultural shift to end the stigma, silence, and inaction against IPV, specifically for marginalized groups, like the ones mentioned above, who face more barriers when accessing support.

POC and LGBTQ IPV Invisibility

As IPV is framed as a heteronormative occurrence, there is a great gap in knowledge as to how LGBTQ people experience IPV. They face a multitude of barriers when seeking safety and refuge. For example, IPV programs have denied LGBTQ survivors access due to a long history of LGBTQ criminalization and stigmatization. The same can be said about people of color (POC), who don’t have culturally competent and reaffirming services available to them to prevent violence against them and support them.

Fact: Transgender Latina people are 3x more likely to experience transphobic abuse from their partner

Fact: LGBTQ, HIV-affected, and POC are 2x more likely to experience threats or intimidation in their intimate relationships.

Fact: 62% of LGBTQ IPV survivors are people of color

Fact: Black/African American people are 1.6x as likely to experience physical violence.

Tactics Specific to POC and LGBTQ IPV

People of color experiencing IPV are vulnerable to tactics of abuse based on their racial and ethnic identities. This also applies to LGBTQ people with abuse catered towards their sexual preferences, orientation, and presentation. These tactics include:

- Isolation of the partner from their racial or ethnic communities

- Threatening to “out” partner to their friends, family, or community

- Using racist epithets and stereotypes

- Threatening to report them to the police

o POC are often assumed the abusive partner by law enforcement

o Being a part of the LGBTQ community is still criminal in some regions of the world

- Berating a partner’s cultural practices

Outreach – How to engage in discourse

Outreach is any way to reach out and get yourself and your community involved in an issue of interest. This can include going to events, reaching out to people online or in maybe could say ‘in your day-to-day interactions’ as well as through other mediums, or even discussing it with a friend at a party. There are countless opportunities for involvement.

It is important to be a source of support without taking the focus and power away from survivors.

The five main components of outreach include:

- Engage community members by letting them know why you’re doing what you’re doing

- Locate community members apart from events and locations which are already well-outreached

- Listen to what survivors and community members have to say about IPV and what their thoughts are for action

- Educate community members around the issue and let them know why they should get involved

- Get community members involved

For example, community forums and discussions are a terrific way to start dialogue about IPV. While October is IPV month, discussion should not be limited to 31 days. Community speakouts can be organized to address IPV incidents or simply to provide education around the issue. These sessions can also serve as a space for survivors to tell their stories and raise visibility, but this must be done with great caution as to not be tokenizing or alienating. Moreover, these sessions can be used as a great way to discuss solutions on how to provide services relevant to the lived experiences of POC and LGBTQ people, as they have been greatly underrepresented in the discussion of IPV.

How to act:

PREVENTION: Raising awareness through education and discourse. Advocating for appropriate responses from service providers, healthcare, and law enforcement agencies when interacting with POC and LGBTQ survivors of IPV

RESPOND: Increase funding for services and banning barriers to service based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression

REPORT: Report violence


Further Resources

NATIONAL COALITION OF ANTI-VIOLENCE PROGRAMS (NCAVP) NCAVP works to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs, and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. We strive to increase power, safety, and resources through data analysis, policy advocacy, education, and technical assistance. To receive local support and report an incident of violence please visit

THE NETWORK/LA RED The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, our work aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We strengthen our communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services. The Network/La Red offers many resources including training and technical assistance in both English and Spanish on LGBTQ intimate partner violence. (

THE NORTHWEST NETWORK The NW Network increases our communities’ ability to support the self-determination and safety of bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay survivors of abuse through education, organizing and advocacy. We work within a broad liberation movement dedicated to social and economic justice, equality and respect for all people and the creation of loving, inclusive and accountable communities. The Northwest Network provides national training and technical assistance on LGBTQ intimate partner violence. (

IN OUR OWN VOICES In Our Own Voices works to ensure the physical, mental, spiritual, political, cultural, and economic survival and growth of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of color communities. Survivors of IPV can find support and resources through In Our Own Voices. (

THE NATIONAL BLACK JUSTICE COALITION The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. As America’s leading national Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, NBJC has accepted the charge to lead Black families in strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality. (

NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment. NCTE was founded in 2003 by transgender activists who saw the urgent need for a consistent voice in Washington DC for transgender people. NCTE provides this presence by monitoring federal activity and communicating this activity to our members around the country, providing congressional education, and establishing a center of expertise on transgender issues. NCTE also works to strengthen the transgender movement and individual investment in this movement by highlighting opportunities for coalition building, promoting available resources, and providing technical assistance and training to trans people and our allies. NCTE sees this type of assistance as strengthening new and existing transgender organizations and our allies, initiating coalition building, and empowering state and local advocates who can mobilize on the federal level. (

TRANS PEOPLE OF COLOR COALITION Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) is the only national social justice organization that promotes the interests of Trans People of Color. TPOCC is an organization to inspire and nurture collaboration among communities of color dedicated to anti-racism and fighting transphobia and the empowerment of transgender persons of color. We work to strengthen and mobilize individuals, families, and communities by changing laws, educating the public, and building social and economic strength among all persons of color. (

GLAAD GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. (


National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Intimate Partner Violence in the United States in 2011 (Oct. 2012). (Last ret. 1/17/2014).

National Center for Victims of Crime and NCAVP (2010). Why It Matters: Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Victims of Hate Violence & Intimate Partner Violence. (Last ret. 1/17/2014).

Domestic violence agencies, sexual assault centers, prosecutors’ offices, law enforcement agencies, child victim services.

McClennen, Joan C., Domestic Violence Between Same-Gender Partners: Recent Findings and Future Research, Journal of Interpersonal Violence; 2005, Vol. 20; 149.

Waterman, C.K., Dawson, L.J. & Bologna, M.J., Sexual Coercion in Gay Male and Lesbian Relationships: Predictors and Implications for Support Services, The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 1989), pp. 118-124.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-affected Intimate Partner Violence in 2012. Rep. 2013 ed. New York: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2013. (Last ret. 1/17/2014).

Walters, M.L., Chen J., & Breiding, M.J. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

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