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Tactics of Domestic

& Sexual Violence
 

Domestic and sexual violence manifests uniquely within the LGBTQIA+ community, presenting a range of distressing tactics. Survivors encounter specific forms of abuse that exploit their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. These tactics can include:

  • Exploitation of a partner’s sexual history as a means of control

  • Harsh use of offensive pronouns or demeaning comments regarding a transgender partner's body or appearance

  • Undermining a partner's identity by denying their authenticity as a man, woman, or a valid bisexual individual

  • Threatening to disclose their LGBTQIA+ identity to family, employers, or society, applying coercive pressure to force disclosure

  • The abhorrent practice of corrective rape, where the perpetrator assaults a victim based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, attempting to "cure" or "correct" them

  • Asserting control by restricting or questioning a victim’s gender expression, denying them the right to wear gender-affirming clothing or use related accessories

  • Withholding crucial gender-affirming hormone therapies like testosterone injections, depriving the survivor of essential medical care

  • Strategically driving a wedge between the survivor and the already limited LGBTQI+ support systems, isolating them further

  • When compounded with other identities such as race or disability, the community becomes even smaller, intensifying the sense of isolation

  • The abuser impersonating the victim to obstruct access to scarce resources, tracking the survivor through service providers

Additional Tactics of Domestic & Sexual Violence:
 

  • Gaslighting and manipulating the survivor’s perception of reality, making them doubt their own experiences and emotions

  • Economic abuse, controlling finances or obstructing the survivor's access to money or resources

  • Threats of harm against loved ones, including children or pets, to instill fear and compliance

  • Exploiting immigration status or threatening deportation to maintain control over an immigrant partner

  • Employing technology for surveillance or harassment, such as monitoring devices or online stalking

  • Using spiritual or religious beliefs to justify abusive behaviors or manipulate the survivor's choices

 

By shedding light on these tactics, we aim to empower survivors and allies with knowledge to recognize, address, and prevent these forms of violence within the LGBTQI+ community.

Why LGBTQI+ Sexual Violence survivors Might Find it Tough to Get Help

Getting help for tough situations like domestic and sexual violence can be really hard for anyone. But for LGBTQI+ friends, there are extra things that make it even tougher:

  1. People Not Knowing: Some folks think abuse only happens in certain kinds of relationships and might not realize it happens in LGBTQIA+ ones, like thinking queer relationships can't be abusive.

  2. Facing Unfairness: LGBTQIA+ friends might worry about facing unfair treatment or being judged because of who they are when they try to get help from the police or places that offer support.

  3. Worrying if They'll Be Believed: They might feel scared that people won't believe them or won't help them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

  4. Having to Explain Over and Over: Imagine having to explain who you are every time you talk to someone new, like doctors or counselors. That can be exhausting and even risky if it leads to someone sharing private things without permission.

  5. Being Kept Away from Support: Sometimes, an abusive partner might use the LGBTQIA+ community against someone, making them feel alone and without the usual support they'd get.

  6. Feeling Scared of Going to the Doctor: Past bad experiences or the fear of not being treated right might stop LGBTQI+ friends from going to the doctor even when they need help.

 It's important to understand the challenges and barriers that keep LGBTQIA+ people from receiving fair and safe ways to get the support they need.

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Ways to offer support to LGBTQIA+ Friends Affected by Sexual Violence

Often, the family and friends of survivors earnestly wish to offer support but may feel uncertain about the best approach. Whether someone close to you has confided in you or you simply wish to equip yourself for such a moment, taking proactive steps to understand how to assist a survivor during disclosure can be immensely impactful. When the opportunity arises to support a survivor you care about, keep in mind the essential acronym guiding how to TALK.

Thank Them for Telling You

It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge how incredibly difficult it can be to tell someone about this type of trauma. Showing your appreciation for their trust at the beginning of the conversation may help your loved one feel more comfortable.

Ask How You Can Help

Even though your first instinct may be to try to give your loved one advice on what to do, it’s important to let them make their own choices about what to do next. You don’t have to have all the answers––you just have to listen and let them know that you are there for them to help in any way they need.

If this is the first time someone has disclosed the assault or if it has just happened, they may not be certain what support they need from you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. It’s always better to ask than to assume that you know what they want or need. Simply saying something like, “I care about you a lot, and I want you to know that I am here to help in any way I can,” can mean so much to someone who has just told you about their experience.

Listen Without Judgement

While it’s normal to have reactions like anger or shock when someone you care about shares an experience of sexual violence, sometimes those reactions can make a survivor feel like they are responsible for your feelings and discourage them from feeling that they can open up. Listening without judgment can be one of the most healing things you can do for someone you love. What does this look like?

Examples of supportive, non-judgmental reactions:

  • Give your undivided attention. If someone starts telling you what happened to them, put down whatever you’re doing and pay attention to them. Nothing on your phone or on the TV will be as important as what they’re sharing with you. If you’re driving or doing something else where giving your full attention to the conversation might put you at risk, you can say something like, “Thank you so much for telling me this. I want to be able to give you my full attention and listen to you in the way you deserve. Let me pull over/end this call/etc. so we can continue.
     

  • Focus on their feelings. Listen to whatever the survivor is telling you in a calm and empathetic manner. Even if you’re feeling angry or upset or shocked, try to keep those emotions within yourself and focus your attention on supporting the person in front of you.
     

Use supportive phrases, such as:

  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

  • “I believe you.”

  • “You are not alone.”

  • “It’s not your fault.”

Examples of What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t ask if they’re absolutely sure it happened. This will likely make them feel that you do not believe them.

  • Don’t say that what they’ve described doesn’t sound like sexual assault to you, or that it “isn’t that bad.”

  • Don’t ask for details about what happened––such as if they knew the perpetrator, what they were wearing, if they had anything to drink, etc. Those details don’t matter right now; what matters is making sure that the survivor feels supported. Questions about the details can make someone feel blamed for what happened to them.

  • Don’t tell them that they should have gotten over it by now. There is no timeline for healing, and each survivor’s journey is different.

  • Don’t insist that they have to do certain things––such as report to police, get a sexual assault forensic exam, or disclose to others. It is fine to let someone know that these options exist and to ask them if they are interested in pursuing any of them, but you should never pressure a survivor or attempt to control their healing process. Forcing the situation can make a survivor feel that control over their choices is being taken away, which may be retraumatizing after having experienced a lack of control over their body and physical safety during sexual assault.

Keep Supporting

Healing takes time, and it’s crucial that survivors have the ongoing support and love they deserve throughout this process. Every survivor’s healing journey is a unique and ongoing process, so continued care will look different for every person.

For many survivors, feeling that their normal life has been taken away from them can be especially hard. Continue to offer to do things together that your loved one has always enjoyed. For instance, if you enjoy cooking together or following the same TV shows, make sure you’re reaching out to initiate those activities. Even if your loved one doesn’t want to talk about what happened, it can be helpful to spend time together and feel normal.

The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline

LGBT National Help Center

National Hotline

1 (888) 843-4564
National Youth Talkline

1 (800) 246-7743

Online Peer Support Chat

National Sexual Assault Hotline

1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 

Online Counseling

Forge

Serves transgender and gender nonconforming survivors of domestic and sexual violence; provides referrals to local counselors

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