Black LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Relationship Abuse
Relationship abuse can impact anyone, regardless of age, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It’s a major issue, especially among teenagers and youth: one in three young people will experience dating abuse. From September 1, 2020, to September 31, 2023, The National Domestic Violence Hotline received 558,597 calls, chats, and texts. Of those reaching out, 114,972 of them (20.58%) were from people aged 13-26. This includes people in all types of relationships: LGBTQ+ relationships, heterosexual relationships, serious relationships, and casual situationships. However, what someone experiences in an abusive relationship or while trying to access support can vary greatly depending on their race or sexual orientation. Age can also impact many things – your comfort level when talking about abuse or sexual orientation, your finances and transportation, and your ability to access services. This means that a Black LGBTQ+ youth experiencing relationship abuse will have a different experience than someone who is a White, heterosexual adult.
It’s crucial to understand how the intersection of age, race, and sexual orientation impacts someone’s experience with abuse. It can not only add barriers to finding and receiving support; it can even affect the resources and options available to the survivor.
Challenges and Barriers for Black LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Relationship Abuse
Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and race, all unhealthy and abusive relationships are based on one partner’s attempts to exert power and control. on the other partner. But these actions and behaviors vary. Because racism and cultural discrimination are so ingrained in U.S. society, someone’s race and sexual orientation can greatly affect their safety plan options and available resources. This can create many challenges and additional barriers for people who are young, Black, and LGBTQ+. Below are some unique challenges and barriers that Black LGBTQ+ youth experiencing relationship abuse may face.
- Greater Risk of Relationship Abuse
People from marginalized communities are at a greater risk of experiencing relationship abuse. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of abuse and offer support early on. Partners who are abusive will use existing societal beliefs to maintain power and control over their partner. This could look like homophobic or transphobic comments to emotionally abuse their partner or use their race to discriminate against them.
This should not suggest that people in specific communities, like LGBTQ+ and/or Black communities, are more violent than their heterosexual and White counterparts. What it demonstrates is that victimization is more common for people in these communities.
- Internal conflict
There can be many internal conflicts for Black LGBTQ+ youth experiencing abuse. They may be dealing with their own internalized homophobia/transphobia, which can express itself in negative self-talk. Abusive partners often gaslight their partners or even blame the abuse on them, which could lead to conflicting thoughts about whether their partner is abusive or not, or if they are to blame. Lastly, they might be conflicted about how they feel towards their partner. If their partner is loving and sweet at times, while at other times, they are violent or aggressive, it can be confusing and difficult to predict their moods and actions.
- Fear of losing community
A major barrier for Black LGBTQ+ youth experiencing abuse is the fear of losing their communities. If the abuse survivor is still “closeted” to most of the relationships in their life, their partner could threaten to out them to their family and friends. If a survivor comes from a particular religious or cultural background that is unfriendly or even hostile to the Queer community, they may worry about being disowned for being LGBTQ+. An abusive partner who identifies as LGBTQ+ could also create issues within the community. All these fears can lead to the survivor feeling isolated, making it hard for them to remain connected with people who know and welcome them.
- Fear of law enforcement
Fear of law enforcement is another issue that African- American LGBTQ+ youth can experience. On average, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men, while Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts. Queer Black youth might fear being hurt or arrested if they call the police on their White partner. They might also worry about how the police will treat their partner if their partner is a person of color.
- Distrust of resources and programs
Many African- Americans may distrust government agencies, nonprofits, or law enforcement due to years of racial discrimination and abuse. They may have had a family member or friend who was negatively impacted by a government agency, or they themselves might have experienced discrimination. This distrust makes it more difficult for them to reach out to programs or organizations that could help them.
Impact of Age on Black LGBTQ+ Youth
A person’s age can also have a huge impact on their experience. Age affects Black LGBTQ+ young adults experiencing abuse in many ways.
- It's hard to talk about relationships.
When it comes to talking about relationships, young people often feel nervous. They might worry about how an adult will react when they bring it up. This can be especially true for LBGTQ+ youth, as they might fear their family or friends disowning them because of their sexual orientation.
- You're still figuring things out.
It can take time to learn about yourself, especially about romantic partners. You could be exploring your sexuality or gender identity, and you aren’t 100% sure about things. This can make it hard to talk about. You might not know someone who can talk to you about it, or you may not trust the people around you with that information.
- It's your first relationship.
Unfortunately, healthy relationship education isn’t often discussed. If you’re in your first relationship (or even if it’s NOT your first), you might not know what a healthy relationship looks like or means. You may think your partner treats you normally!
- It affects your safety plan.
Your age can also impact your safety plan. If you are a certain age, you must attend school. This could be a place where you are forced to see your abusive partner or ex, which is another level of safety planning you must think about. Depending on your age, you may not be able to drive or have a car yet. This can make it much more difficult to leave if things get abusive or violent.
- It impacts your ability to access services.
Your age can impact your ability to access services. Some programs may mandate reporters for child abuse, which brings other agencies into the picture. Others might require a minor to obtain their parents’ permission, which can be a challenge if you haven’t told your parents about the abuse. If you aren’t old enough to drive yet or don’t have a car, it can be hard to get to support programs or shelters.
Help is available.
Black LGBTQ+ youth experiencing abuse face many challenges and barriers, but help is available. Resources such as The Brown Boi Project and The Trevor Project are available to offer specific, culturally appropriate support. You can also find LGBTQ+ or culturally specific resources from The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Remember, our advocates are available 24/7 to offer support and referrals to local resources. You are not alone.