Recognizing Abuse of Male Victims and the LGBTQ+ Community
Statistics reveal that anyone can be a victim of intimate partner abuse.
Posted November 26, 2019 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
Domestic Violence Month this past October mostly focused on women in heterosexual relationships—including my piece. That focus can inadvertently minimize other victims of partner abuse that need compassion and support as well.
Men and members of the LGBTQ+ community are seriously impacted by intimate partner abuse. These two groups share similar concerns that their complaints or injuries won’t be taken seriously, often causing them not to seek the help they need.
Intimate Partner Abuse
Intimate partner abuse (IPA) is all about power and control in a relationship. One partner slowly and insidiously uses coercive tactics to achieve dominance over their partner. These tactics can include emotional and verbal abuse, psychological aggression, physical violence and threats of sexual assault, financial coercion, and isolation.
Whether same-sex or opposite-sex relationships, males and females can become perpetrators or become victims. As a victim, men suffer the same injurious impact of being the target of abuse as do women. Common harmful reactions include fear, shame and humiliation, self-blame, self-doubt, lower self-esteem, anxiety, PTSD, and generally a loss of agency or control over their lives.
The following statistics give us some information but do not provide a completely accurate picture, since both groups have high rates of unreported abuse cases.
Men and IPA Statistics
Men are abused in opposite-sex and same-sex relationships more frequently than we know. Just like female victims, men can be at risk irrespective of ethnicity, socioeconomic circumstances, religion, education, age, or marital status. The statistics give us a picture and help us understand what men experience in the realm of IPA. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):
Physical Violence and Rape
- 1 in 4 men have been physically abused (slapped, pushed, shoved) by an intimate partner.
- 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused (hit with a fist or hard object, kicked, slammed against something, choked, burned) by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
- Nearly 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
- I in 18 men are severely injured by intimate partners in their lifetimes.
- Male rape victims and male victims of non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences reported predominantly male perpetrators. Nearly half of stalking victimizations against males were also perpetrated by males. Perpetrators of other forms of violence against males were mostly female.
- 48.8% of men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior (being kept track of by demanding to know his whereabouts, insulted or humiliated, or felt threatened by partner’s actions) by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
- 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control (isolation from friends and family, manipulation, blackmail, deprivation of liberty, threats, economic control, and exploitation) by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
Sexual Assault/Sexual Violence
- Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States reported being raped in his lifetime, which translates to almost 1.6 million men in the United States.
- 8% of men have experienced sexual violence other than rape (forced to penetrate someone, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences) by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetimes.
- 1 out of every 19 U.S. men have been stalked in their lifetimes to the extent that they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
- Among male stalking victims, almost half (44.3%) reported being stalked by only male perpetrators while a similar proportion (46.7%) reported being stalked by only female perpetrators. About 1 in 18 male stalking victims (5.5%) has reported having been stalked by both male and female perpetrators in their life.
- 1 in 20 (5%) of male murder victims are killed by intimate partners.
- Between 1980 and 2008, in cases in which the victim/offender relationships were known, 7.1% of men were killed by an intimate.
- The percentage of males killed by an intimate fell from 10.4% in 1980 to 4.9% in 2008, a 53% drop.
The following lists obstacles for men in opposite-sex relationships when they need to reach out for help:
- Psychological abuse is hard to see and creates confusion, making it difficult to be certain that one is being abused.
- Belief that no one will believe him if he reports abuse by a female—girlfriend or spouse.
- Feeling shame and humiliation that a female is hurting them.
- Fear of law enforcement believing their female partner over them that could result in a legal entanglement.
- Fear of their partner’s abusive retaliation.
LGBTQ+ and IPA Statistics
It’s only in recent years that much-needed attention has been given to intimate partner abuse in the LGBTQ+ community. Two important studies revealed that IPA is an important and prevalent problem.
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reissued an updated version of the 2010 National Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Survey that included for the first time an analysis addressing victimization by sexual orientation. The findings are for lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner:
- 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women. (The study did not include gender identity or expression).
- 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.
- One study shows that 30-50% of all transgender people experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
The other study, The National Violence Against Women Survey reported:
- 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex partner experienced physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes—compared with a history of opposite-sex cohabitation with 7.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women.
- 34.6 percent of transgender respondents experienced physical violence during their lifetimes.
NCADV reports the following statistics in the LGBTQ+ community:
- In a study of male same-sex relationships, only 26% of men called the police for assistance after experiencing near-lethal violence.
- In 2012, fewer than 5% of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought orders of protection.
- Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
- Bisexual victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to people who do not identify as bisexual.
- LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black/African American.
- LGBTQ white victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to those who do not identify as white.
- LGBTQ victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey:
- More than half (54%) experienced some form of intimate partner violence, including acts involving coercive control and physical harm.
Abusive partners in the LGBTQ+ community utilize similar coercive tactics to gain control and overpower their intimate partner resulting in a similar harmful impact as mentioned above. Tactics that target an intimate partner’s vulnerabilities are particularly effective. Societal factors unique to the LGBTQ+ community reflect areas of vulnerability that can be targeted in the service of coercing an intimate partner.
The following list shows tactics of power and control unique to the LGBTQ+ community that can also become obstacles to seeking help (NCADV):
- “Outing” or threatening to “out” a partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity to family, friends, bosses, colleagues, etc.
- Claiming that no one will help the abused partner because s/he is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or implying because of this they deserve the abuse.
- Transgender partners might be ridiculed for his/her body and/or appearance; told they’re not a real man or women; demeaning their identity as “bisexual,” “trans,” “femme,” “butch,” ”genderqueer,” etc.
- Prior experiences of physical or psychological trauma such as bullying or hate crimes that can make victims of intimate partner abuse less apt to seek help.
- Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimidation, harassment, and police violence within intimate partner abuse.
Everyone deserves respect and living without abuse.
Anyone can be at risk for intimate partner abuse. Whether you or someone you know, there are resources to get better informed—know what it looks like—and help to get safe.
Call National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233 for someone to talk to and information about local services.