Within the LGBTQ+ community there exist longstanding beliefs about domestic violence and abuse which are both damaging and untrue. These have developed over a long period of time, sometimes informed by negative stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, other times deliberately fostered in order to invalidate the real experiences of queer people.

The spread of these beliefs prevents queer people from seeking help, causes intense emotional distress, and can cause abuse to continue for longer than it otherwise would.

Here we’re going to dispel the most common myths within the community, and try to set the facts out plainly. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or know someone who is, you can get direct support from Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti violence charity. Call them on 0800 999 5428.

Abuse can’t happen in same-sex relationships - FALSE

It’s common for people to think that relationships between two women, men, or gender nonconforming people can’t be abusive. This is categorically untrue: abuse can and does occur between partners regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. 

There are many reasons people think this, some of which are listed as part of other myths that we’ll cover below. 

LGBTQ+ people experience less domestic abuse than cis-het people - FALSE

In fact, LGBTQ+ experience high rates of domestic abuse, possibly more than their cis-het counterparts. 

A Stonewall report says that one in four lesbians and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship. It also showed that more than one in three gay and bisexual men has experienced domestic abuse in a relationship with another man. 

Another Stonewall report found that more than a quarter of trans people (28%) in the last year have faced domestic abuse from a partner, this compares with 4% of the general population experiencing domestic partner violence in 2020. This is a huge disparity, with trans people experiencing far more abuse than cis-het people.

Domestic abuse is less severe in same-sex relationships - FALSE

There is no evidence to suggest that domestic abuse is less severe in same-sex relationships. Partners of the same gender are just as capable of abuse and violence, regardless of whether they both identify as men or women, or are non-binary. 

This is linked to the belief that same-sex couples experience lower rates of domestic abuse: there is a false belief that the ability to abuse is dependent on the power dynamics that exist in heteronormative relationships, and that it should be harder to do so in queer ones. In reality, queer people experience high levels of domestic abuse and that abuse is no less severe than it is in heterosexual relationships.

It’s easier for LGBTQ+ people to leave relationships than cis-het people - FALSE

There is no reason why it should be easier for LGBTQ+ people to leave relationships than cis-het people. In fact many LGBTQ+ people experience social inequalities that make leaving a relationship difficult, and our relationships are just as involved, complicated, and emotionally binding as those of cis-het people.

This false belief is in part attributed to the stereotype that LGBTQ+ people, especially gay men, are more promiscuous than heterosexual people, and that this means that finding another partner, and therefore leaving the relationship, should be easier. The ability to leave an abusive relationship has nothing to do with how large the pool of other potential partners may be, or how much sex inside or outside the relationship the survivor is having, or can have. 

Men should be able to protect themselves - FALSE

There is a common misconception that men should be able to protect themselves from abusers who are also men. This idea is fuelled by toxic beliefs about masculinity and violence: that any man should be able to participate in violence “give as good as they get”. 

Not only does this wildly misrepresent the huge variety of ways in which abuse and violence manifest, it is also completely untrue. Survivors who are men should not be expected to reciprocate, and often can’t, regardless of their size, shape or fitness. 

Women can’t be abusers - FALSE

In the majority of cases of domestic abuse in heterosexual relationships, the man is the abuser, and this fact has distorted the view of some people with regard to LBT+ relationships. Women can perpetrate abuse, both in heterosexual, and queer relationships. A stonewall study found that one in four lesbians and bisexual women have experienced

domestic abuse in a relationship. Two thirds of those said the perpetrator was a woman.

Size and power necessary in an abuser - FALSE

In cases of physical abuse, size and power relative to the other partner are not necessary for someone to be an abuser. Being small, or not being strong, doesn’t stop an abuser from perpetrating physical abuse, which is often coupled with emotional and psychological abuse. There is no one size fits all “image of a perpetrator” and domestic abuse encompasses a whole range of controlling damaging behaviours which aren’t physical in nature at all.

Women can’t rape other women - FALSE

Women can rape other women, and the underlying the belief that they can’t is the homophobic notion that sex between two women “isn’t real sex”. When one person has sex with another person without their consent, or against their will, this is rape - full stop. Sometimes abusers will use this myth to try and manipulate the survivor and convince them that they aren’t being abused.