Intimate partner violence, the technical term for what's more commonly known as "domestic abuse," is a serious problem — and a new report reveals that it's a particular danger for transgender people. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, or NCAVP, has just released its report on LGBTQ intimate partner violence in 2016, and the reality it uncovers underscores that the queer community is just as vulnerable to domestic violence as any other group — but that transgender people are at particularly high risk.
The report, which looked at 2,032 people who'd survived domestic violence and talked to the NCAVP in nine U.S. states, revealed some distressing truths, particularly for transgender women. They were 2.5 times more likely to experience financial violence or be stalked by intimate partners, and twice as likely to experience online harassment — being abused by a partner on social media, for instance. Transgender and non-gender-conforming people in general were three times more likely to experience violence by an ex-partner than cisgender people.
This is another chapter in a story we've already known about for some time. According to a collection of 42 studies by the Williams Institute in 2015, 31.1 to 50 percent of all transgender people encounter intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 27 percent of all women and 11 percent of all men in the U.S. have experienced some kind of intimate partner violence in their lives, from sexual assault to stalking.
The reasons why transgender people are so vulnerable to intimate partner violence vary. Societal discrimination and transphobia are definite factors, and the Transgender Law Center highlights that reported levels of domestic abuse for transgender people are likely much higher than what's actually been reported. "Transgender survivors of domestic violence often choose not to report the abuse due to a number of factors, including a fear of compromising the privacy and safety interests if one is “outed,” denying access to medical treatment or hormones, or endangering one’s legal status if they are an undocumented immigrant, and a fear of the institutionalized transphobia within law enforcement and the judicial system," they explain.
The psychological aspect of serious intimate partner violence for transgender people also has an added aspect: their lack of safety elsewhere. Transgender people are among the most vulnerable targets of violence of any group; Human Rights Campaign has identified 25 transgender people murdered in the U.S. since the beginning of 2017, the highest on record. And that's just the numbers we know about. The constant threat of violence from strangers, experts say, makes intimate partner violence all the worse for transgender people. "Whilst it is devastating for anyone who faces abuse from a loved one," the National Health Service notes, "for trans people it can be especially traumatic because of a lack of safety elsewhere in their lives and the discrimination they may face if they seek help."
The issue of getting help also compounds the problem. "Transgender individuals are often afraid to come forward and disclose abuse in their relationship. They experience negative reactions from medical and social service providers, and given the dearth of attention to domestic abuse in the transgender community, many survivors are unaware their experiences are domestic violence. Typically victims are told that domestic violence is not their fault, and that they did absolutely nothing to deserve the abuse; however, transgender individuals are often not met with that same sympathetic and reassuring response from medical and social service providers," explains crisis counselor Nathan Brewer for the anti-domestic violence organization The No More Project. The NCAVP's report on 2016 data reveals that only 7 percent of the LGBTQ survivors of partner violence went to the police, and their report in 2015 noted that transgender people were often treated as criminals when they reported domestic violence or refused access to resources like shelters or legal help.
If you are at risk for intimate partner violence, it's important to find a supportive community and get help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed with trained counselors who can help you plan a path to safety, and Domestic Shelters has a search feature where you can find a shelter that is trans-friendly in your area.