Because the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men, there is a misconception that LBT+ women and non-binary folk are less likely to experience domestic violence and abuse.

In fact, these groups are far more likely than the general population to experience some kind of domestic violence or abuse.

According to the LGB&T Partnership:

  • 10% of lesbians experienced domestic violence or abuse in the past year
  • As did 13% of bi women
  • As did 16% trans women

This compared to 6% of women in the general population. It means that bi and trans women are more than twice as likely to experience domestic violence and abuse than their cis and heterosexual counterparts.

Research from the former LGBTQ+ charity Broken Rainbow found that around 80% of trans people will be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives.

What are domestic violence and abuse?

When a relationship begins to feature repeated incidents of damaging behaviour, this means it could be abusive. But what do we mean when we talk about domestic violence and abuse?

Most people imagine domestic abuse as physical assaults like hitting or slapping, but there is a whole spectrum of actions that constitute abuse, including controlling, coercive, or threatening behaviour as well as psychological, sexual, financial or emotional manipulation.

If your partner, or someone in your household, has an iron grip on your finances, tries to control who you see and when, or constantly attacks your self-esteem, then you could be experiencing a form of domestic abuse.

Some things to look out for:

  • Do they try and control who you see and when, or track your movements obsessively?
  • Do they try to isolate you from friends, family, and other relationships outside of the one you have with them?
  • Do they physically assault you in any form such as slapping, hitting, burning, biting, shoving, or grabbing?
  • Do they sexually assault you by forcing you into sexual acts or use your sexuality to shame you?
  • Do they withhold basic necessities like food or medicines or try to restrict your access to parts of your home?
  • Do they gaslight you and try to make everything your fault or distort every situation to be about your insufficiencies?
  • Do they try to isolate you from friends or family by telling you that you can’t see them or making threats if you fail to cut them out?
  • Do they constantly put you down and insult you or try to minimise your achievements?

There are many other forms of behaviour that are abusive. For a more complete rundown, read Galop’s thorough fact sheet on abuse in the LBGTQ+ community

There are also specific forms of abuse that LBT+ women and non-binary people are more likely to experience, such as:

  • Threatening to out you publicly 
  • Using your mental health against you as leverage
  • Threatening to disclose your gender identity publicly
  • Shaming you for your sexuality or sexual preferences
  • Restricting access to LGBTQ+ spaces and friends
  • Shaming your use of pronouns or gender identity
  • Deliberately deadnaming you
  • Ridiculing your body, or specific parts of your physicality
  • Coercing you into not transitioning or controlling your access to gender healthcare

Myths about LBT+ and non-binary domestic abuse

Myths about abuse within LBT+ and non-binary relationships are widespread within the community. Not only are they untrue, but they can be used by perpetrators to help justify their behaviour, or gaslight their partner. Myths include:

  • Women can’t be abusers
  • Abusers must be strong and large
  • Sexual abuse doesn’t happen in LBT+ or non-binary relationships
  • LBT+ women and non-binary people can’t rape one another
  • It’s easier to leave an abusive relationship if you’re LBT+ or NB

None of the above is true, and in fact, in some cases the opposite is correct. For instance, abuse is actually more common in LBT+ relationships than in heterosexual or cis ones.

What are the rules during lockdown?

If the country is in a national or local lockdown, then you are still allowed to leave home for your own safety, no matter what tier of lockdown is currently enforced. Shelters and refuges also continue to operate during this time, as do charities like Galop.

An abuser may suggest that because of lockdown there is no one out there to help, or that you have no choice but to stay, but this is untrue. The government has been clear that survivors are allowed to leave home to seek refuge, and this doesn’t necessarily mean at a charity or specialist organisation: you can simply go somewhere safe, wherever that may be.

I’m worried about someone I know. What should I do?

If you think that your LBT+ or non-binary friend is in an abusive relationship, then there are ways that you can support them.

Keep in touch - giving your friend a phone call, whilst understanding that they might have to hang up abruptly or leave the conversation for their safety. You could even agree on a codeword or phrase in case they have to suddenly hang up.

Listen - Giving the person a non-judgemental space where they can talk about their experiences is important. Try to make sure that you’re actively listening, and giving them the room to express themselves.

Don’t tell them what to do -  As tempting as it may be, demanding that the person leave their partner immediately because the relationship is abusive, isn’t likely to make them confide in you more. It is also not your decision to make.

Don’t accidentally blame them - It’s important, while talking to the other person, to make sure that you don’t imply it’s their fault they’re experiencing abuse. Try instead to ask what they would think if the same thing had happened to you, or reiterate that it’s the other person’s behaviour that you’re talking about, not theirs.

Be clear that abuse can happen in LBT+ and non-binary relationships - If you can, try to be clear that it’s a myth that domestic abuse can only happen in cis and straight relationships.

Finding a safe home

If you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer stay in the house with your partner and need somewhere safe to go, then there are options open to you. You can:

  • Apply to the council for a safe residence
  • Seek accommodation at a refuge
  • Call for help from an LGBTQ+ charity

Galop has some great resources about the best ways to apply to your council or finding a refuge, detailing the kinds of records and documents that can be helpful, and what your entitlements are. Try reading this fact sheet.

It may be important for you that your new accommodation is inclusive of your gender identity or sexuality. Charities can help you identify shelters that are gender-inclusive, or even help you find accommodation that is specifically reserved for LGBTQ+ people. 

What Next?

Where to get support

There are a few principal charities in the UK that specialise in assisting LGBTQ+ people, including LBT+ women and non-binary folk with domestic abuse and accommodation. Some of these are members of the LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership[link], a coalition of organisations with joined-up services that are committed to helping survivors of LGBT domestic abuse.

Stonewall housing - works to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people live in safer homes, free from fear, and where we can celebrate our identity and support each other to achieve our full potential. Advice line - 020 7359 5767

Galop - the LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Provides support and advocacy to people experiencing domestic abuse and hate crimes. Domestic abuse helpline -  0800 999 5428

AKT - supports lgbtq+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. Contact through referral form here:

Switchboard - The UK’s longest running LGBTQ+ helpline, staffed by trained LGBTQ+ volunteers. Call on 0300 330 0630