Study: LGBT Youth Face Higher Rates of Dating Violence

A new study shows that LGBT teens face higher rates of dating violence. Photo by Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
A new study shows that LGBT teens face higher rates of dating violence. Photo by Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

LGBT teens are more likely to experience dating violence than their heterosexual peers and transgender teens are most vulnerable, according to a recent report from the Urban Institute.

The study, ”Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth,” is one of the first to look at sexual orientation and gender identity in relation to teen’s experiences with intimate partner violence. It surveyed 3,745 youth in 7th to 12th grades, in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, six percent of whom identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

“Media attention and the literature on lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth overwhelmingly focus on violence involving hate crimes and bullying, while ignoring the fact that vulnerable youth also may be at increased risk of violence in their dating relationships,” the report notes.

Of the LGB respondents, more than half said they experienced some type of relationship abuse. Reported rates of abuse were at least 10 percent higher for LGB youth than for their straight peers in every category. According to the report:

• 43 percent reported being victims of physical dating violence, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual youth;
• 59 percent reported emotional abuse, compared to 46 percent of heterosexual youth;
• 37 percent reported digital abuse and harassment, compared to 26 percent of heterosexual youth; and
• 23 percent reported sexual coercion, compared to 12 percent of heterosexual youth.

“Given such high rates of victimization, helping these young people is especially important since teen dating violence can be a stepping stone toward adult intimate partner violence,” says Meredith Dank, a senior research associate in the Institute’s Justice Policy Center and a lead author of the study.

Only 18 youth identified as transgender (note: the survey appears to have asked youth to identify as either male, female, or transgender, so it’s possible some transgender youth identified as male or female instead), but that small sample reported the highest rates of  victimization. According to the study, “89 percent reported physical dating violence, 61 percent were sexually coerced, 59 percent experienced emotional abuse, and 56 percent recorded digital abuse and harassment.”

The study also found that LGBT youth were more likely to report perpetrating all forms of dating abuse than their heterosexual peers, with the exception of sexual coercion.

“[W]hen looking at gender identity, transgender and female youth are at highest risk of most types of victimization, and are the most likely perpetrators of all forms of dating violence but sexual coercion, which begs further exploration,” the reports says. “The findings support the development of dating violence prevention programs that specifically target the needs and vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, in addition to those of female and transgender youth.”

The report was written by Meredith Dank, Pamela Lachman, Janine Zweig, and Jennifer Yahner and based on a large study funded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. A version of the report was published in the “Journal of Youth and Adolescence” earlier this year.

Read the full report here.

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