February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month, and it's a good opportunity to say a few words about intimate partner violence among LGBT youth.
We know that intimate partner violence in general occurs in same-sex and same-gender relationships at the same rates as opposite-sex or gender ones.
We can also probably assume that violence among LGBT youth occurs at similar rates as it does in youth overall, which is to say that 1 in every 3 adolescents has experienced physical, verbal or emotional abuse at some point in a romantic relationship (according to findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health).
And although intimate partner violence may occur at similar rates among LGBT youth and youth overall, there are some specific challenges that LGBT youth face when they are dealing with these kinds of situations that may make them more difficult.
In addition to dealing with the slurs, intimidation, harassment and violence that many LGBT teens face on a daily basis as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression (which may indeed play a significant role, in some cases, in the cause of intimate partner violence situations in the first place) they may also experience obstacles in getting the abuse they are enduring adequately acknowledged or addressed.
In many cases, LGBT youth may be reluctant to seek help because they are afraid of homophobic or transphobic treatment, or they aren't out to their parents or do not want to disclose their sexual orientation to police or other professionals. When help is sought, it is a common complaint that they are faced with agencies who may buy into harmful misconceptions like the idea that violence between same-sex partners is "mutual fighting," and cannot be characterized as abuse.
All of these scenarios are barriers for youth, in getting the kind of competent help they need and deserve at times that they need it most.
If you are experiencing any kind of behavior that feels abusive, isolating, pressuring, controlling in your intimate partnerships, get help. If anyone you know seems to be experiencing intimate partner violence, encourage them to do the same.
We have an amazing anti-violence program in our community, here in Rochester, that can help if you feel you are experiencing, or have experienced, any form of violence, discrimination, sexual assault, harassment or abuse in your life. Contact the Anti-Violence Program of the Gay Alliance at (585) 244-8640 x17.