2SLGBTQQIA+ experiences of intimate partner abuse and help-seeking: Policy implications

About the project

Research on Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual and other gender identity and sexual orientation minorities (2SLGBTQQIA+) consistently demonstrates inequitable health outcomes relative to their cisgender heterosexual counterparts, including how service provision is tailored for those experiencing intimate partner abuse (IPA). Low resource allocation, limited diversity in service provision, stigma, systemically rooted social forces (e.g., homophobia, transphobia) and community-level factors (e.g., community stigma), among others, serve as barriers for 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals who experience IPA from accessing and receiving adequate support.

From a population health perspective, other social determinants of health (e.g., age, income, race) can further intersect with IPA help-seeking behaviours among 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals, complicating understandings of IPA service access. For example, individuals who identify within the community who are also Black, Indigenous, or people of colour (BIPOC) must navigate the compounding impacts of historically rooted discrimination and stigma, particularly within healthcare settings.

Existing literature on the help-seeking behaviours of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people experiencing IPA needs to be systematically reviewed to synthesize existing knowledge and identify strengths, gaps and barriers to supporting not only the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community as a whole, but also the diverse groups comprised within. Therefore, this work has two main objectives:

  1. to describe IPA help-seeking patterns across different gender and sexual orientation 2SLGBTQQIA+ groups, and
  2. to further dissect help-seeking patterns as a function of other societal factors, including, but not limited to, race, age, income level and educational attainment.

Key findings

A total of 703 peer-reviewed studies focused on 2SLGBTQQIA+ IPA, and of those, 142 specifically examined help-seeking and 2SLGBTQQIA+ IPA. Most studies examined mixed sexual and gender minority (SGM) samples without providing stratified results. Many studies revealed that 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals were often unaware that the control, violence or manipulation they experienced in their intimate relationships could be classified as abuse, acting as a barrier to seeking support or leaving abusive relationships. Other significant barriers across all groups included a lack of knowledge about available services, the absence of 2SLGBTQQIA+-specific services (and services providers), and anticipated or enacted discrimination from service providers. Negative experiences with accessing police services were commonly reported by many identity groups, while LGBT individuals also expressed dissatisfaction with legal services, indicating limited opportunities for seeking justice. Counsellors and friends were often regarded as positive sources of support.

Policy implications

  1. Critical changes are needed to gender-based violence services, particularly violence shelters, to properly respond to 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities. Many services perpetuate gender norms and engage in discriminatory actions that impede adequate support, including a significant service gap for both cis and trans male-identified individuals.
  2. Ensuring justice for 2SLGBTQQIA+ people who experience violence is essential, necessitating attention to formal legal systems, policing, and transformative justice.
  3. Counselling services are crucial to support this sector, including measures to reduce individual costs and increase accessibility and equity.
  4. Intensify education and training for services providers working in formal services to reduce stigma and misconceptions, and increase cultural responsiveness.
  5. Expand educational curricula in schools to include 2SLGBTQQIA+ IPA, enabling individuals to recognize experiences of abuse and support one another.
  6. Informal support from friends is a crucial resource; its effectiveness could be enhanced by establishing stronger connections to collective care initiatives.
  7. Research and service design need to meaningfully integrate intersectional frameworks that better respond to the full diversity of 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.
  8. A collective impact model is needed to address abuse prevention, coordinate service navigation pathways, evaluate informal and formal supports, and increase funding.

Further information

Read the full report

Contact the researchers

Zack Marshall, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary: zack.marshall@ucalgary.ca

Team members (co-investigators, collaborators and trainees): Belinda Bobga, Richard S. Henry, Lee Hodge, Hart Krentz, Ophilia Kumbah, Stefan Kurbatfinski, Ridham Madaan, Zack Marshall, Katherine Maurer, LeeAndra Miller, Martin Morris, Isi Parente, Rene Peltekian, Fritz Pino, Alan Santinele Martino, Noah Ulicki, and Jessica Whitehead.

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