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Victim services

16 Days of Action: LGBT+ and gender-based violence

Portrait of two young women, one looking directly at the camera and the other looking away from it. Overlaid is the text "16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence".

Backed by the United Nations and organisations around the world, 16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign which calls for the end of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Catch22 are running a series of blogs highlighting the various different forms VAWG can take, approaches to tackling it and supporting its victims and how we can keep up the movement’s momentum.

Today’s blog is by Rachael Atkinson-Millmoor, Senior Caseworker at Victim First and LGBT+ Representatives Team Lead.

In the sphere of gender-based violence it is apparent that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence from male perpetrators. In the year proceeding the murder of Sarah Everard 125 women were killed in the UK (The Independent, 2022). When you add in the factor of LGBT+ demographics those statistics can change slightly, therefore as the theme for 2022 is UNITE I wanted to discuss further elements of domestic violence that may be forgotten.

SafeLives ran an Insights data project from April 2018 to the end of November 2020 of cases involving trans victims/survivors. Within their dataset 44% of trans victims identified as female whilst 56% identified as male. This data indicates several potential points such as both trans men and women are referred to domestic abuse services at a broadly similar rate or perhaps that trans men and women face similar levels of risk.

A research project completed by Galop (2018) suggested that trans women and trans men were both more likely to have a male perpetrator than female perpetrator. This certainly lends evidence to the male perpetrator statistics that are often talked about in gender-based violence discussions. An example of this, from the Femicide Census (2018), is that between 120-150 women and girls over the age of 14 are killed in male violence against women every year in the UK.

Another reason to pull out trans victims of domestic violence specifically is the difference in certain types of abuse and the barriers that LGBT+ people face when trying to access support services.

A particular tactic that is often seen as being used as a deliberate form of abuse is the use of trans identity being used against victims/survivors. This can include tactics such as deliberate incorrect use of pronouns, forcing gender performance outside of the victim’s identity, preventing them from accessing medical services etc.

SafeLives found this to be evident through the most common types of abuse suffered by trans victims, including: controlling behaviour (80%) and physical abuse (66%). Both encompass the many ways that an abuser could use a trans of LGBT identity against their victims.

As mentioned above one reason why the statistics and information around LGBT+ survivors accessing domestic abuse support services can differ is the number of barriers for LGBT+ people feel:

  • A large proportion of survivors are bisexual women with male perpetrators (46%) and therefore this demographic point can get lost in the discourse around ‘women being victims of male violence’.
  • LGBT+ people are more likely to access support through friends or LGBT+ specific services due to the barriers that they face.
  • Lack of visible inclusivity in non-LGBT+ organisations reduces the confidence in LGBT+ identifying people that they will receive appropriate support.
  • Some LGBT+ survivors may not be comfortable disclosing or discussing their identity in order to gain support from family/friends, police or support services.

“I would like that because it doesn’t explicitly say they support LGBT people then we’re not welcome at that service.”

– LGBT Young Person, Voices Unheard Project at LGBT Scotland


Below are some recommendations for services who support domestic violence survivors that may open up your service to those service users that are feeling barriers:

  • Review policy information to include LGBT+ inclusive language and, where needed, address concerns LGBT+ people may have about disclosing their identity.
  • Treat disclosures of sexual orientation/gender identity as carefully as you would treat other highly sensitive disclosures.
  • Ensure that your LGBT+ survivor groups feed into commissioning decisions and help to shape services to safeguard inclusivity and identifies barriers to accessing support.
  • Create visibility for your service through social media, attendance at events, accreditations, and engagement in LGBT+ related campaigns.
  • Make sure that your staff, those who are frontline especially, are adequately trained to support your pool of service users including those who are LGBT+