We Need to Stop Erasing Queer Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Queer people can be violent, and be survivors too. So why do we ignore them?


Content note for discussion of violence and sexual assault. 

One of the greatest health risks facing the queer community, is internal violence, namely intimate partner violence. It has been proven that violence in same gender relationships is just as prevalent as it is in different gender relationships. Furthermore, bi women are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing violence, harassment and stalking. Yet, the narrative is focused towards women who are only ever portrayed as victims and men who are only ever described as abusers. This means many survivors are being isolated even further.

The only charity dedicated towards supporting queer survivors of intimate partner violence in the UK closed in 2016. Even our laws are antiquated. Under English law, rape is only classified as being penetrated by a penis without consent. This erases people who may have been sexually assaulted with other objects or body parts, as though their offences aren’t as significant as rape. The wording matters. Cis women who have been assaulted by cis women are particularly being erased by this narrow-minded definition of rape – as well as trans men. 

Queer people can be abused. Queer relationships can be abusive. This is something that must be acknowledged.

“Queer relationships can be abusive”

There’s been huge pressure on the queer community to present as perfect. There are so many stereotypes about being predators and greedy that the immediate and understandable reaction is to dismiss the claims outright, because it is true – queer people aren’t inherently abusive. However, some queer people are also abusive, just the same as some allocishet people are abusive.

The need to present relationships as flawless and loving though has been a cornerstone of trying to secure better rights. Progress would arguably have been less likely around issues such as marriage and adoption if the opposition had any extra ammunition to use against queer people. However, victims shouldn’t be ignored because of societal bigotry. Queerphobia has silenced many, but we should work to ensure that it does not silence survivors of intimate partner violence further.

The narrative around intimate partner violence right now is inherently anti-feminist when it comes at the expense of gay, bi, asexual, pan, aromantic and transgender women. People of all genders can sometimes be abused by women, and men can be abused by men too. It was an easier one sided narrative to campaign on but we need a more nuanced picture if we’re going to show solidarity to queer women and ensure that all survivors are supported.

Women still aren’t believed but especially queer women. This can be shown no further than by the constant attacks Amber Heard has faced, while Johnny Depp has gotten a gig in one of the biggest franchises in the world. The fact that Heard is bi matters so deeply when bi women are at greater risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. Biphobia is so engrained in society that partners may be jealous, and believe that a bisexual partner is cheating. Intimate partner violence can also be queerphobic violence.

Only by including and centering the narratives of queer survivors can we truly begin to tackle intimate partner violence. By only focusing on one branch, we miss the rest of the forest and so many survivors are cast into the shadows. This isn’t about #NotAllMen but about saying sometimes women abuse too, so that all women’s stories are heard.

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