LGBT Youth Face Higher Rate of Dating Abuse

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Document date: September 06, 2013
Released online: September 06, 2013

CONTACT: Simona Combi, (202) 261-5709,

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 6, 2013 -- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teenagers are at much greater risk of dating abuse than their heterosexual counterparts, with transgender teens especially vulnerable to victimization, an Urban Institute report shows.

"Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth" is one of the first examinations of dating violence and abuse through the distinct lens of sexual orientation and of gender identity. Victims are more likely to be females or transgender youth who are also more likely to be depressed, have lower grades, have committed delinquent acts, and to have a history of sexual activity.

The report is based on a survey of 3,745 youth in 7th to 12th grades, in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Six percent identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, the rest as heterosexual.

Of the LGB respondents,

  • 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," said Meredith Dank, a senior research associate in the Institute's Justice Policy Center and one of the study's lead authors.

Although a small number, the 18 transgender youth surveyed had the highest rates of victimization: 89 percent reported physical dating violence, 61 percent were sexually coerced, 59 percent experienced emotional abuse, and 56 percent recorded digital abuse and harassment.

To prevent dating abuse, Dank recommends an array of measures addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of LGBT youth. School counselors, for instance, should be trained to identify signs of dating violence and how to handle such incidences. And because LGB victims are more likely to seek help than heterosexual youth, particularly from friends, schools should consider creating peer support groups.

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

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation. It provides information, analyses, and perspectives to public and private decisionmakers to help them address these problems and strives to deepen citizens’ understanding of the issues and tradeoffs that policymakers face.

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice | Race/Ethnicity/Gender

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