Report: LGBTQ People and Interpersonal Violence during COVID-19

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organisation, recently released LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence and COVID-19, which demonstrates the disparities in rates of intimate partner violence between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ communities, shows how these rates are likely to increase during COVID-19, and offers solutions to address these rising rates of violence.

“Our isolated environment, as well as the numerous financial and additional stressors brought by COVID-19, creates an increased risk of intimate partner violence – a risk which is that much higher for LGBTQ people,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.

“COVID-19 has impacted the financial stability and wellness of individuals and families everywhere. Advocates, lawmakers and the general public must seriously consider the impact this pandemic has had on the rates of interpersonal violence and look to ways to address this issue from a legislative, data and cultural level.”

LGBTQ people already face increased risk of violence, including by an intimate partner, when compared to non-LGBTQ populations. This report shares the staggering rates of intimate partner violence for LGBTQ people:

  • 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of straight women
  • The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that more than half (54%) of transgender and non-binary respondents experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes
  • Among non-LGBTQ respondents to the most recent CDC YRBS survey, 7% reported experiencing physical dating violence and 8% reported they experienced sexual dating violence. However, HRC’s analysis of public YRBS data found 18% of LGBTQ respondents reported experiencing physical dating violence and 16% reported experiencing sexual dating violence
  • YRBS data shows that 19% of Black respondents, 20% of Native American respondents, 13% of Asian respondents, and 16% of Latinx respondents have experienced physical dating violence compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ white youth

As the inevitable economic and health consequences of COVID-19 continue to unfold across the globe, the national media and leading professional organisations, like the American Psychological Association have responded to the devastating increased risk of intimate partner violence.

The providers that work every day on the front-lines with survivors of violence know that even in the best of climates, the rates of intimate partner violence are staggering. More than 80 million people across America have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. It is expected that rates of intimate partner violence will increase as a result of stay-at-home orders, yet reporting will significantly decline, as victims remain in living situations in which they can’t safely get help.

To address the high rate of interpersonal violence in the LGBTQ community, which research shows is likely to increase during COVID-19, HRC is calling on Congress to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, and reauthorised by strong bipartisan majorities in 2000, 2005, and 2013. The 2013 reauthorisation provided explicit protections for LGBTQ people, Native women and undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, the act has not been reauthorised in the years since.

Additionally, organisations and providers — including law enforcement and health care workers – must develop core cultural competencies to best serve this community. The Department of Justice has previously identified that gender bias may result in law enforcement officers providing a form of less protection to certain victims on the basis of gender, failing to respond to crimes that disproportionately harm a particular gender, or offering less robust services, due to a reliance on gender stereotypes.

The Justice Department specifically provides that bias can result in misclassifying or underreporting cases of sexual assault, and intimate partner violence cases. Bias and stereotypes can also lead to dismissal of sexual assault or violence complaints as ‘family matters’ rather than as crimes.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organisation, working to achieve equality for LGBTQ people. 

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