Addressing & Preventing Teen Dating Violence: Don’t Forget about GLBTQ Youth

Co-authored by Kate Rafey (current organizing fellow) and Melissa Sturtevant.

Originally published in Youth Health Connection on January 31, 2013

One pitfall of many sexual assault and domestic violence programs that address teen dating violence is the lack of recognition of relationships of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (GLBTQ) people. The 2011 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that GLBQ* youth are three times more likely to experience dating violence than their straight peers. Addressing that dating violence happens in all types of relationships is necessary.The basic components of GLBTQ dating violence look the same in any relationship. Power and control are at the center of dating violence, with one partner holding more power and controlling another partner. GLBTQ teens have the added experiences of discrimination and sometimes additional fear of being “outed”. Some youth hide their relationship from family and friends, isolating them from potential support. An abusive partner can use homo/bi/transphobia against their partner, like telling them they are less valuable because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

GLBTQ youth that have experienced dating violence sometimes find additional barriers to services. Many sexual assault and domestic violence agencies that offer services to teens may not be GLBTQ-friendly and may have little experience working with GLBTQ clients. Boys and men may feel stigmatized accessing dating violence resources and believe the stereotype that men cannot be victims. Since the GLBTQ community is a smaller percentage of the population, both the victim and abuser may be part of the same social circles, leading to further isolation of the victim. Transgender youth may not seek resources because their identities may not be recognized by many agencies.

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