By: Sophia Marano
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are especially vulnerable to intimate partner violence because of social stigma, structural barriers in the environment, and discriminatory practices by others. (Spiers, 2013). Unfortunately, the medical community’s efforts to address intimate partner violence have often neglected members of the LGBTQ+ community. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). It is not only imminent that health care providers learn to routinely screen for intimate partner violence when working with people who identify as LGBTQ+, but also work to overcome stereotype and biases towards this vulnerable population.
Before discussing how health care providers can help to promote equity regarding intimate partner violence in LGBTQ+ relationships, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which LGBTQ+ and heterosexual intimate partner violence differs. An aspect that is unique to the LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence experience is the tactic of outing as not only a form of abuse, but also a barrier to seeking help. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). Members of the LGBTQ+ community may not outwardly express their sexual orientation or gender identity in fear of stigma and discrimination. In turn, abusers may exploit this fear through threats of forced outing. Furthermore, outing can also be a barrier for LGBTQ+ victims to seek help. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). For example, victims’ reluctance to come out to those around them may obstruct them from turning to their family and friends for support. This cycle further isolates victims and prolongs the abuse. Another aspect of intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ+ community is the stigma, discrimination, and trauma individuals have faced prior. For instance, many LGBTQ+ individuals face rejection, bullying, and hate speech and crimes. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). These prior experiences of violence and discrimination may make victims less likely to seek help when experiencing intimate partner violence because they do not feel that they have a supportive and loving community around them.
When LGTBQ+ individuals attempt to access intimate partner violence services they are met with multiple barriers due to the lack of LGBTQ+ shelter services. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). These barriers make the role of the victim’s health care provider as both a caretaker and advocate even more important. Furthermore, there are a multitude of steps that health care providers should take when assessing LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, before screening for intimate partner violence, health providers should first inquire about sexual orientation and gender identity in a sensitive and open manner. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). Health care providers can signal their acceptance to the LGBTQ+ community by using inclusive language both in the examination room and on intake forms. When screening for intimate partner abuse, health care providers should not only recognize the problem, but also offer empathetic support and help ensure that the victim is safe. It is also crucial for the health care provider to act as an educational role for the LGBTQ+ victims and help them identify what intimate partner abuse is. (Ard & Makadon, 2011). Additionally, providers must be informed about the numerous amounts of health risks associated with intimate partner violence in LGBTQ+ patients. To further ensure that the patient gets the help that they deserve, it is also important for health care providers to familiarize themselves with resources available within their communities for LGBTQ+ victims of intimate partner violence.
LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence differs from heterosexual relationships in a countless number of ways. These differences affect the victims’ experiences significantly. To combat this problem, it is not only important to acknowledge these differences, but also for health care providers to become educated on the specific burdens that LGBTQ+ members face regarding intimate partner violence. It is imminent that health care providers take the steps needed to promote equity for members of the LGBTQ+ community and to help keep this population protected from intimate partner violence.
Ard, K. L., & Makadon, H. J. (2011, March 30). Addressing intimate partner violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Transgender Patients – Journal of General Internal Medicine. SpringerLink. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-011-1697-6
Spiers, M. V. Geller, P. A. & Kloss, J. D. (2013). New Women’s Health Psychology. John Wiley & Sons