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“It’s not going to be exactly the same for everyone, and that’s important for service provision and providing support.”And because LGBTQ intimate partner violence is so rarely talked about, people may not realize their relationship is an abusive one.
“I didn’t know I was being abused” is a refrain that Messinger says he’s heard over and over again in his research.“Abuse is obviously not unique in the gay community, but there is a different set of pressures,” says Vasquez, who is exploring those challenges as she works on a book about her experience.
And according to a review of 42 studies by the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank that studies gender identity and public policy, between a third and a half of transgender people experience violence at the hands of a partner at some point in their lifetime, compared to 28 to 33 percent of the general population.“We keep seeing these high numbers in studies over and over again,” says Adam Messinger, assistant professor of justice studies at Northeastern Illinois University, who reviewed more than 600 studies while writing his book, .“You can no longer say there’s not enough research on this,” he tells SELF.
“Sure, we need more studies so we can understand more, but there’s already so much evidence about the scale of the problem.”Abusers might out their partner or threaten to out him or her.
“I really felt this pressure to show that everything is great,” she tells SELF.
“I felt that by talking about what happened between two women, I was playing into the hands of the homophobes and giving them ammunition to hurt gay people on a bigger scale.”She’s sure others have felt that pressure.
“I’m dating a woman and she’s half my size, and I’m thinking, who’s going to believe me? Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention often doesn’t track the gender identity of its study participants, its 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey did help shed light on the magnitude of domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships.
The situation is most dangerous for queer people of color, especially trans women, who may ultimately choose to not seek help from an institution that many in the community believe to be systemically racist and transphobic. This year, at least 28 transgender people have been murdered, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The NCAVP study found 44 percent of queer survivors trying to get emergency access to shelters were denied.
Celia Vasquez* was in graduate school when the abuse began.
Her partner of a few months groped her in public, threw a suitcase at her while she napped on the couch, and threatened to throw her out, she tells SELF.
The abuser may target a person just as they are grappling with their sense of gender or sexual identity, manipulating and undermining the victim’s sense of who they are and where they belong in the world.
The abuser may use a person’s gender or transgender status against them by making them feel ashamed of being gender queer, refusing to call them by their preferred pronoun and stopping them from expressing their gender identity through clothes or medications.
There was jealousy, screaming, and hostility towards Vasquez's friends when they overheard the fighting.