LGBT HERO, the national health and wellbeing charity for LGBTQ+ people, recently spoke to 20 LGBTQ+ people about their experiences of domestic abuse over the pat 18 months, particularly during periods of the Coronavirus lockdowns and limited socialising.

We surveyed these 20 people about their experiences over the past two years as result of some alarming stats from previous LGBT HERO reports.

Two surveys were conducted by LGBT HERO, in 2020 and 2021 respectively, about how COVID-19 and restrictions impacted us as a community. An alarming stat highlighted that 16% of LGBTQ+ people in 2021 had experienced violence or abuse in the home, rising from 15% in 2020.

What constitutes domestic abuse? How do we spot it? And what can we do about it?


What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can take many forms and can affect anyone from any background and any identity, including LGBTQ+ people. Domestic abuse can include, among others:- physical violence and intimidation (punching, kicking, hitting, burning), verbal abuse (insults, shouting, threatening), emotional abuse (blaming, shaming, putting you down), sexual abuse (rape, sexual assault, groping), economic abuse or financial abuse (controlling / hiding money, sabotaging your work), control and controlling behaviour / gaslighting (mind games, threats, surveillance), technological abuse (monitoring messages, hacking emails, demanding passwords), isolation (restricting movement, keeping friends / family away, demanding relationships end).

The vast majority of the people who spoke with us experienced forms of emotional and psychological abuse, as well as verbal abuse, controlling behaviours and physical harm.

The abuse itself can be perpetrated by anyone in a domestic setting. It doesn’t always restrict itself to romantic relationships. Much of the abuse the people we spoke experienced was by friends, partners and sometimes even parents.

Anomalisa, 21, was abused by her long-term partner and it was the pandemic that highlighted how abusive her relationship was: “She abused me while we were together at university. After the pandemic started, we were forced apart, and I began to realise how bad the relationship was.”

“She was convinced I was stealing her medicine and she would constantly put me down and tell me to stop doing things I liked because I was bad at them. I was early in transition as a trans woman and she would frequently tell me I looked or felt like a man. She would grab my genitals without asking and would often hit me and threaten more when she got upset. She told me she was a paedophile and that she’d kill me if I told anyone about what she was doing. She always told me she loved and appreciated me.”

“I told a friend who had been through abuse of their own. They were understanding. Nothing happened after that.”

An anonymous respondent told us that they were emotionally and verbally abused by their parents and siblings. “Due to Autism and PTSD, I can forget things quickly and I can be hard to live with. They knew this and started to gaslight and blame me for things that either didn’t happen or I didn’t do. The pandemic made me more vulnerable to the abuse.”

Ryan, 21 told us. “The family member I live with is basically a dictator, and so until university ends, I’m stuck living here dealing with daily snide comments and insults,” he said. “Every other day there’s an argument of some sort and I’ve been called and made to feel disgusting. After a year it does add up.”

Psychological abuse and control

Often abuse isn’t just the horror of physical violence, there’s an insidious, harder to identify forms such as psychological abuse and control. Many respondents stated that were subjected to forms of control.

Peter Kelley, the Head of Domestic Abuse Services at LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop, breaks down how control and abuse can present itself and how we can spot it.

“Coercive control can be difficult to necessarily identify but trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel or seem right. Things like change in behaviour of the victims/survivor can indicate this form of abuse is taking place.

“LGBT+ specific forms of coercive control and abuse can take the form of control around someone’s sexuality and gender-identity, which can see threats to out someone to their family or community, isolating the someone from their family and community and undermining of the someone’s sexuality/gender identity or general sense of self. For a trans person this can take the form of someone controlling their transition, the way they identify and how they dress.

“It can also present by using medication and substances to control and abuse someone, including prescription medications and chems etc. Think of the most extreme case, involving Stephen Port, who used coercion and control – grooming victims, sexual exploitation. We tend to think of chems in terms of hook ups, but they can be used in intimate partner relationships to coerce and control and leads to heightened risks.

“Control also extends to threatening to harm the victim or themselves. For example: ‘if you leave me I’ll kill myself, or kill/harm you.’ People can also be subjected to threats to expose sensitive information like sexual activity, fake profiles on Grindr or threatening to expose people via social media platforms.”

Beyond physical and emotional

Abuse presents itself in many different ways that extend beyond physical and emotional and often aren’t even identified as abusive behaviours. The people we spoke to experienced online or technological abuse and often experienced financial abuse.

Peter Kelley of Galop explains: “It isn’t just about violence or physical abuse, it’s psychological, emotional, financial and economic abuse, for example, if you threaten to make someone homeless. It’s also not just about intimate partners, it can be from family members or an ex-partner, so can include elements of things like stalking, harassment (including online). Also, things like forcing someone in a relationship to have sex against their will is also an element of domestic abuse. DVA can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnic background.”

An anonymous respondent told us: “My partner was emotionally abusive regularly, using the threat of her losing her temper to get her way. She used to demand that I give her money on an almost daily basis, and justified this to herself because I was earning more than she was. She had an extremely bad temper, especially when drunk or high which was frequently. Her moods would flip in a second. She was also physically violent, on one occasion throwing me across the kitchen. I fell into the oven door which smashed and I was injured by the breaking glass.”

Telling someone

Finding a way out of the domestic abuse or finding a way for it to end can often start by telling someone the abuse is taking place, confiding in friends of family, telling a counsellor or therapist or reporting it to the authorities. Many of the respondents hadn’t told
anyone that the abuse took place.

For those who did tell someone about the abuse, they tended to talk to friends, a therapist or counsellor or a family member. Very few contacted a helpline or the police.

“I told my friends for support,” Adam, 47 tells us, “and I went to a therapist to help reframe and unpack my trauma.”

An anonymous respondent told us what happened after they told people about abuse they received from their parents: “Obviously people I have told were shocked and disgusted. My work colleagues were more disbelieving but upon seeing me have to move far away, I think it sank in for them. Besides that, if I mentioned anything casually then most people would try to convince me it was not as bad as I said.”

Peter Kelley of Galop advises: “We would always advise people not to suffer alone or in silence, this might be talking to friends/family, colleagues, or it might be talking to someone anonymously, like Galop’s DVA Helpline or similar. We find LGBT+ often prefer to contact an LGBT+ service where they don’t have to explain themselves or identity or out themselves. If someone feels they are in immediate danger (or witnesses this) they should consider calling the police on 999. It’s always a choice to call the police and there are reasons why people might not want to, but they should always prioritise their safety and those around them. It’s important for victims/survivors not to believe that they are responsible for someone abusing them.

Abuse during the pandemic

Did the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns exacerbate domestic abuse for LGBTQ+ people? We asked, if the pandemic make your situation worse or more vulnerable. Many told us the abuse started before the pandemic but many said that the pandemic made the situation worse.

“I was stuck with my adopted family and they were angry each day,” Alfredo tell us.

“Because of the lockdowns I couldn’t escape the abuse,” an anonymous respondent says.

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO said, “Before the pandemic happened, we knew that there was a small proportion of LGBTQ+ people who have experienced domestic violence in both emotional and physical instances. However, the pandemic did
something that nobody was ready for, it pushed people who normally wouldn’t spend all day together to spend their whole time together. This led to those who were experiencing domestic violence and abuse before the pandemic to see increases of instances and some who never experienced it before to experience it for the first time. This can lead to LGBTQ+ people feeling trapped in a situation where they feel they can’t escape and behaviours like above become very normal, very fast. Although we as a community did our best to support people who experienced these issues, it’s clear more should have been done.”

Advice from those who have lived it

We asked those who have lived through domestic abuse what advice they would give to someone in their shoes.

“You are not to blame. Think of the advice you’d give to a friend if they told you it was happening to them,” says Adam, 47.

“Get out when you are secure enough too. I was able to forgo extra months of saving because I moved with a partner, but if you can’t afford to, there are other avenues,” says an anonymous respondent.

Another anonymous respondent says: “Honestly, I have no advice. The wounds never heal.”

Ian Howley of LGBT HERO said, “I think anyone who has or is experiencing domestic violence or abuse needs to know that they are not to blame. It’s easy to say “Stand up to them” or “Leave them”. We know from people’s past experiences that it’s not that easy. But it should be. Our advice to you if have an honest conversation with yourself first about what you are experiencing. Recognise it for what it is then seek support whether it’s via a trusted friend or via a support channel. There is lots of help and support out there and they can guild you on how to deal with it in both a physical and mental way.

What you have experienced or are experiencing is likely to have a lasting effect on your mental wellbeing. It’s super important that you talk about it. Seek support. And then build a happier, healthier life for yourself. We know it’s not an easy thing to do but listen to those who have gone through it and they will tell you seeking support was the best thing they did. It can be for you too.”

Where is there support?

Galop gives advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. You can get in contact either by calling 0800 999 5428 (National Helpline), 020 7704 2040 (London advice line), or visit galop.org.uk.

Men’s Advice line – a helpline for men who suffer from domestic violence and abuse. Call 0808 801 0327 – free from landlines and from mobiles using the O2, Orange, T Mobile, Three (3), EE, Virgin, and Vodafone networks – or email [email protected]

If you would like to speak with someone about LGBTQ+ issues, call Switchboard at 0300 330 0630 between 10am-10pm, email [email protected], or access their web text chat here.


To find out more about domestic abuse and where you can get help and advice, click here

To speak to people who have been through the same experiences as you in a safe secure environment, visit our online forums