What We Think About When We Think About Intimate Partner Violence

When you think of domestic violence -- as we are in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) -- what do you think of?

I'm going to guess your thoughts right now might include the NFL, the Pass the Peace challenge, and maybe this powerful video of young women talking about violent relationships. And while these stories are absolutely critical to our national conversation about intimate partner violence (IPV), and how to end it, they are all missing one thing: the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.

Despite the absence of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors in many DVAM campaigns, the data about LGBTQ intimate partner violence is chilling.

In the New York City Anti-Violence Project's (AVP) National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) 2013 report on intimate partner violence, released last week, we saw the highest LGBTQ intimate partner homicide rate ever. 76 percent of IPV homicide victims were gay men. LGBTQ people of color were nearly twice as likely to experience physical violence, threats and intimidation as white LGBTQ people. Transgender survivors were two times more likely to experience physical violence and nearly four times as likely to experience discrimination as cisgender people. Bisexual survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence and more than two times as likely to experience physical violence and be injured as a result of the violence.

And as it stands right now, support for survivors is scarce: fewer than 6 percent sought domestic violence shelter, more than 75 percent of all survivors never called the police and more than 80 percent of survivors did not seek orders of protection -- all typical first responses to intimate partner violence.

In New York City, we saw similar trends: AVP saw a 26 percent in reports of intimate partner violence reports, and 71 percent of those reporting identified as people of color. We saw a 60% increase in reports from transgender identified survivors.

With numbers like this, and such little support for LGBTQ survivors, it's time to flip the script about who experience IPV and who need support and services.

At AVP we see how intimate partner violence impacts different members of the LGBTQ communities differently: the risk of homicide to gay men, of discrimination to transgender survivors, of injury to bisexual survivors. We've heard, over and over, how people are meeting their partners online and as the way people interact evolves, so must our strategies. We know we need to be creative in reaching folks with information about violence and safety and creative in designing specifically tailored resources to support them.

That's why AVP has launched two innovative initiatives to respond to, and prevent, intimate partner violence -- and all forms of violence. First, we started bringing our IPV support groups to all five boroughs of New York City to reach different communities with collective support where they live, work and hang out. We're also our leadership programming for transgender and gender non-conforming people of color who are at the most risk of violence and who are expert in responding to and preventing violence. We know that when we give people a chance to connect, to talk about their lives and their safety and the opportunity to develop leadership skills, we are supporting the voices and vision of LGBTQ anti-violence advocates.

We can make the voices of LGBTQ people a part of the conversation about intimate partner violence. Really, we have to. We want DVAM, and all violence prevention efforts, to include and to be led by LGBTQ folks. You can help. When you're talking about domestic violence, think about who is missing from the conversation. Invite them in. So that from now on, when we think about domestic violence and intimate partner violence we are finally thinking of all survivors, we are no longer leaving anyone out.