Violence against people identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Inter-sex: What is it?

There are some practical things we can do to reduce barriers and respond well to people from LGBTI communities who are experiencing sexual assault, domestic and family violence.


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Violence against people who identify as LGBTI includes a range of behaviours. Sexual assault, domestic and family violence, controlling behaviour and particular types of violence based on sexuality, gender or identity, are all part of the picture. Homophobia, transphobia and hetero-sexism play a powerful role in shaping the way we think about and respond to sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Well-founded fears of discrimination and concern about how others, including the service system, will respond can make it difficult for people to talk about what is happening, which increases risk.

People who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI) are more likely to talk to a family member or friend when they experience sexual assault, domestic or family violence. When someone approaches a service, we are in a unique position to respond with information, support and professional risk assessment and safety planning. This page contains information that explains sexual assault, domestic and family violence against people who identify as LGBTI.

What is violence against people who identify as LGBTI?

Violence against people who identify as LGBTI includes a variety of unique risks and vulnerabilities. Barriers to accessing services, a lack of information that acknowledges and describes intimate partner violence in same sex, intersex, bisexual or transgender relationships, and a lack of acknowledgement of violence caused by homophobia, transphobia or hetero-sexism, all contribute to the particular experiences of violence and barriers to accessing services. Understanding sexual assault, domestic and family violence is a good start; however, general information about violence against women needs to be adapted to include violence against people who identify as LGBTI.

Sexual assault is any sexual or sexualised act that makes a person feel uncomfortable, intimidated or frightened. It is behaviour that a person has not invited or chosen. Find out more about sexual assault. 

Domestic and family violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in an intimate relationship or other type of family relationship where one person assumes a position of power over another and causes fear. Find out more about domestic and family violence.

Forms of violence against LGBTI people

Homophobia, transphobia and hetero-sexism play a powerful role in shaping the way we think about and respond to sexual assault, domestic and family violence.

Homophobia openly discriminates against the Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual community, offering no or restricted access to services that are safe and appropriate. This can include not recognising violence can happen in LGB relationships, not recognising the unique kinds of violence that happen in LGB relationships, a lack of safe refuge for gay, lesbian or bisexual people fleeing domestic violence, as well as discrimination against non-offending parents in times of crisis.

Hetero-sexism refers to the practice of presuming a heterosexual identity. Hetero-sexist responses presume that clients are heterosexual and might include using language that presumes a person’s partner is of the opposite sex; a failure to recognise and respond in ways that are respectful of culture, connection to community; failure to take into account the unique experiences of shame and fear that accompany sexual assault, family and domestic violence for LGBTI communities (for example threats of outing someone - telling friends and family who do not know - that a person is gay).

Transphobia and other gender-based phobia is discrimination against a person whose gender identity is different to what was assumed at birth. Gender-based discrimination may include not using a person’s preferred pronoun or not referring to their preferred gender; making overt or subtle comments about how a person should look/act to conform to a particular gender; assuming the sexuality of a transgendered/intersex person; assuming the gender and/or sexuality of a person’s partner; denying access to services based on gender or gender identity; differentiating between pre and post-operative transgendered people; restricting access to transgender medications.

There are a number of unique ways in which LGBTI people experience increased risk.

Some of the risks include:

  • A lack of information that identifies violence or controlling behaviours in LGBTI relationships as sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Information often focusses on heterosexual relationships
  • Experiences of fear and shame: including the ways in which not being publicly ‘out’ about sexuality, gender or identity and health status could be used as control
  • The fear of being isolated from the LGBTI community, or blamed by community for violence 
  • Discrimination against non-offending parents when children are involved
  • Financial discrimination that makes accessing shared financial resources of an LGBTI couple more difficult or impossible
  • A well-founded fear of nowhere to go that is safe and culturally appropriate

 Inclusive Practice

Building an inclusive practice ensures that we can respond well to our LGBTI clients. All our knowledge around increasing safety applies and there are practical things we can do to respond well. A number of resources can be implemented to improve inclusive practice at the level of your organisation. Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender & Inter-sex clients: Where do I find support? contains information on inclusive practice, specialist services in your state or local area and providing professional risk assessment and safety planning.

Further Reading


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