By Lisa Manning, Indiana Office of Court Services
Early this year, the founder of Miss Transgender America, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, was found dead in her home after being stabbed and beaten to death by her husband. In an interview with police, Mark Steele-Knudslien said he “snapped” after arguing with his wife.
Intimate partner violence is as prevalent in the LGBTQ community as in heterosexual communities. 43% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 26% percent of gay men and 37% percent of bisexual men experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Thirty to 50% of transgender women experience intimate partner violence or sexual assault during their lifetime. (“National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey,” 2013, CDC).
Popular understandings of what constitutes intimate partner violence and sexual assault may prevent victims from recognizing that incidents of abuse by their partners are, in fact, abusive and illegal.
Women who had experienced violence from a same-sex intimate partner sometimes did not initially consider these incidents to be domestic violence. Some women cited their belief that the violent acts women commit are not as serious or as dangerous as those perpetrated by men. Hassouneh et al. (2008).
LGBTQ victims of intimate partner violence face unique challenges in accessing resources to escape abusive relationships. Victims fear being “outed” to family, co-workers, or other members of the community if they report abuse. An abuser may manipulate mutual friends and community support in order to cut off these resources to the victim. Intimate partner violence in a same-sex relationship may be viewed as mere “fighting” or assumed to be mutual violence.
LGBTQ victims also hesitate to report intimate partner violence and seek services because of the discrimination surrounding these identities. Of the LGBTQ victims surveyed by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, only 12% attempted to access an emergency shelter and only 33% sought protection orders after incidents of domestic violence.
Intimate partner violence continues to be prevalent in the LGBTQ community and victims are less likely to report abuse and seek services. Increased awareness and the continued use of screening tools by law enforcement and medical professionals will help secure access to services for LGBTQ survivors and reduce future intimate partner homicides.
Additional resources, including a webinar on what judges need to know about domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, can be found at the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges website at ncjfcj.org.
Lisa Manning joined IOCS in December 2017, replacing retiring staff member Ruth Reichard.