LGBTQ+ communities tend to be small. If someone feels safe and accepted as their most authentic self with only a few people, their world tends to be even smaller.
LGBTQ+ survivors may only have a small circle of chosen family, which includes their partner, and may shrink even further due to the isolation typical of abusive dynamics. Thus, these survivors may share their entire support system with their abusive partner.
Due to a limited number of LGBTQ+ services and spaces, the only spaces they may be out in – and therefore could talk about their relationship in – could be those their partner frequents. So, who will an LGBTQ+ survivor tell if they experience abuse?
Fear of being refused services based on gender or sexual identity is a powerful barrier to seeking support. Will they be believed? Does the person they are talking to recognize the intricacies of abuse in the LGBTQ+ community? Even if they are believed and provided services, these survivors don’t know if support will be accompanied by behaviors or comments that, regardless of intention, are painful. Will staff understand their identities?
To reach outside of one’s tiny community for support also necessitates recognition of one’s experience as abuse. Messaging that abuse is primarily experienced by women in heterosexual relationships is powerful in our society, and an LGBTQ+ survivor may not identify what they’re experiencing as abuse.
The tiny world of an LGBTQ+ survivor could be broadened at each level by societal shifts away from homophobia and transphobia.
Our work as community members is not just interpersonal. We must do our part in combatting the oppression LGBTQ+ individuals experience to make it more accessible to reach out for support and build healthier relationships free of shame, secrecy, and fear.
DOVE serves survivors of all genders and sexualities. Reach out for support if you need it.