Stay in an abusive home or leave with no safe place to go. For many victims of domestic violence, these are their only choices. Domestic violence is one of the primary causes of homelessness for women and their children, who are forced to flee a dangerous situation suddenly and quickly, sometimes without any financial or housing options, in order to escape imminent danger or possible death from batterers.
Fortunately, victims may find refuge at domestic violence shelters that have historically provided specialized services for abused women and children. But for some victims, that’s where additional complexities may come into play. For a victim of domestic or intimate partner violence (IPV) who is a member of the LGBTQ community, the experience of reporting IPV and accessing services can be just as traumatizing as the abuse itself.
While statistics have not yet captured the prevalence of intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ community, there is a small but growing body of research being conducted across the country to assess the prevalence of IPV within LGBTQ communities and to explore the experiences of LGBTQ-identified survivors. A relatively large study conducted using data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research indicates that bisexual (40.6%), gay or lesbian adults (27.9%) are almost twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence as heterosexual adults (16.7%).
LGBTQ victims face unique challenges in seeking social and support services in our community, including prejudice, homophobia, discrimination, and shame, in addition to control mechanisms within abusive relationships, such as threats to be “outed.” The lack of culturally competent services for LGBTQ populations places this community at a great disadvantage. Something as innocuous as an agency’s name, such as “Women’s Service Shelter,” may prevent victims from the LGBTQ community from seeking services.
Gendered stereotypes and screening methods also create barriers to appropriate services. When law enforcement responds to same-sex domestic violence calls, dual arrest occurs at much higher rates when compared to heterosexual couples. Added to the already complex and overwhelming challenges of domestic violence and identity experienced by LGBTQ victims, are the additional burdens and extreme cultural barriers experienced by victims from communities of color. Coupled with the life-threatening intimate partner violence issues, these challenges create overwhelming barriers for the LGBTQ community.
All victims have a high need for specialized housing services, as they may suffer from physical and psychological trauma resulting from their victimization. But, with the high cost of living and overwhelmed shelters at or near capacity, it is nearly impossible for victims – especially those from the LGBTQ and other culturally underserved communities – to secure safe, affordable housing. As a result, victims are often forced into homelessness.
Since our opening in 1979, Interval House has specialized in working with victims of domestic violence and their children from the most underserved communities, including the LGBTQ community, providing emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing, and comprehensive support services in over 70 different languages. Interval House continues to expand domestic violence education, outreach, and support within the LGBTQ community, enabling all victims the opportunity to find safety and stability.
Smile at someone today that is experiencing homelessness, talk to them and ask them their name. Simple human kindness today will go a long way.
HomeAid has been ending homelessness with Interval House since 1990, through the development of three homes that have added 50 beds for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Interval House programs are also recipients of the HomeAid Essentials campaign and other HomeAid Community Outreach activities.