Primary Sources: LGBTQ Youth at Higher Risk for Dating Violence, More Likely to Seek Help

Photograph of a young person traveling.

Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth” (abstract). Meredith Dank, Pamela Lachman, Janine M. Zweig, Jennifer Yahner. Journal of Youth and Adolescence (online, July 2013).

What it’s about: This study from the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC, think tank, explores dating violence and abuse among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens. The researchers analyzed data from surveys with 3,745  New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania high school and middle school students who were in a dating relationship in the prior year, and compared the dating violence rates and experiences of LGBTQ youth with those of their heterosexual peers.

Why read it: In recent years, researchers and the media have shed a lot of light on the high rate of hate crimes and bullying LGBTQ youth experience. The authors of this study write, Although important, such attention masks the fact that youth who are vulnerable to violence from others may be at increased vulnerability for experiencing and perpetrating violence among themselves, particularly in their dating relationships.” This study adds to the literature about the extent of dating violence and abuse among LGBTQ teens.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth had higher rates of experiencing and perpetrating all forms of dating violence and abuse. These included physical violence, psychological abuse, cyber abuse and sexual coercion. Among the study’s other findings:

  • Though there were few transgender teens in the study, they were more likely than non-transgender teens to experience dating violence and abuse.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual dating violence victims were more likely to be girls or transgender youth who had higher levels of depressive symptoms, got lower grades, got into more trouble at school or with the law, and had been sexually active.
  • While lesbian, gay and bisexual teens report these negative outcomes, they were also about twice as likely as heterosexual teens to reach out for help.

The researchers write that their findings support the need for dating violence prevention and intervention programs that specifically address the needs of LGBTQ youth. Previous research has found that a positive school climate buffers LGBTQ youth against bullying, and that may also prove true for dating violence, they say.

“Having a counselor at the school who is trained on how to identify signs of dating violence and how to handle such incidences (e.g., when to report, whom to report and how to report), particularly among [lesbian, gay and bisexual] youth, would be key to addressing this issue,” they write. “Additionally, because [lesbian, gay and bisexual] victims of teen dating violence and abuse are more likely to seek help and advice than heterosexual youth, particularly from friends, schools might consider creating peer-led groups to build awareness around the issues of teen dating violence.”

Additional references: LGBTQ youth dealing with dating violence can contact the GLBT National Help Center or the National Dating Abuse Helpline.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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