The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
October 10, 2013

LGBT teens experience dating abuse more frequently than teen heterosexual couples

October 10, 2013

A recent study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed to learn about the roots of adult sexual violence by asking 1,058 people aged 14 to 21, whether they'd ever "kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?"

Nine percent of the respondents said yes to one of these violations or another. What’s more, roughly three-quarters of the victims were in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator, according to the study.

We often overlook that much coercion and abuse amongst teenagers happens inside romantic relationships. Even more so we overlook that coercion and abuse happens inside of romantic relationships shared by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) teenagers.

My Urban Institute colleagues Pamela Lachman, Jennifer Yahner, Janine Zweig, and I recently conducted a study focused on the rates at which LGBT teens in relationships are physically, psychologically, digitally, and sexually abused and coerced by their partners.

The results we found were just as concerning as those discovered by the CDC.

We found that LGB teens in relationships experience abuse significantly more frequently than teen heterosexual couples. We also found that lesbian, gay, bisexual females, bisexual males, and transgendered teens each experience different types of abuse at different rates.

Dating transgendered teens that participated in our study experienced the most abuse and coercion across the board and by large margins. Female teens in a relationship experienced more abuse than dating male teens in all categories except physical abuse.

The specifics are available in our report and in a related video, but, taken together, the numbers tell us that these populations suffer unique problems that require prevention and intervention programs specifically designed for LGBT teens.

The teenagers we surveyed for our study reported that LGB teens are twice as willing to seek help than their heterosexual counterparts, and with specialized programs – such as peer to peer counseling – we could take them up on that willingness to make romantic life safer for LGBT teens.

There are certainly risks out there for young people in romantic relationships and the more we learn about what they’re experiencing, the smarter we can be about finding ways to help them avoid danger.

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