What It’s Like Confronting Dating Violence When You’re Young and Queer
by Judy Bokao
Dating can be one of the most exhilarating experiences when you’re young- and for young LGBTQ+ couples, a first kiss, date, or relationship can feel monumental. These intimate moments, however, can be manipulated. 43% of LGBTQ+ teens report to experiencing abuse when dating.
1 in 3 teens in the U. S experience dating violence. Data from CDC’s youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that, among U. S high school students who reported dating during the 12 months before the survey, roughly 1 in 12 experienced physical violence and 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence. Another study by the Urban Institute shows that transgender people report high rates of physical dating violence (88.9%), psychological dating abuse (58.8%), cyber dating abuse (56.3%) and sexual coercion (61.1%).
Instances of violence against the LGBTQ+ community are countless. The violence they already face in social settings from unaccepting homes to school is difficult enough to face. No young person should also be made to feel unsafe in their relationships with other queer teenagers.
In January this year, California released a measure that would proclaim the month of February 2022 as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, but the empty gesture suggests LGBTQ+ youth will continue to be generalized while solving issues surrounding dating violence.
The troubling fact remains that the solutions can sometimes be worse than the problems. Survivors of such violence end up facing additional discrimination when reporting the crimes. The legal system in many ways is built to work against them. There are a lack of legal definitions surrounding dating violence that are inclusive of same-sex couples and an inadequate amount of information about the available resources for the LGBTQ+ survivors and community. Many survivors can face additional discrimination among the service providers when seeking help, with law enforcement ignorant or insensitive to intimate and personal concerns relating to LGBTQ+ sexual health. When an instance of abuse is formally filed, there is still low confidence among survivors that there will be judicial action.
On a personal level, there is also a frustrating psychological, emotional, and physical impact. Suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, antisocial and unhealthy behavior are all among the emerging problems among the LGBTQ+ community after dating violence.
It is devastating that survivors of LGBTQ+ dating violence are more prone to never report the abuse they are going through. The unique dynamics of abuse in a queer relationship is different from a heterosexual relationship. There are pervasive misconceptions that men cannot experience abuse and that there is simply no abuse in lesbian relationships. The reality is anyone can be a victim of violence in a relationship. It is particularly difficult for teens to report abuse because some of them already lack a safe place in their lives. They are not sure who they can be open with and to what extent. In some cases, they have a valid fear that speaking up about this issue may negatively affect their lives in school and home especially when they are in a secret relationship. It gives the abuser the power to threaten the victim with publicly outing them should they say a word.
The issue of dating violence among the young, LGBTQ+ community deserves serious attention. More work needs to be done for courts and public officials to promote equality regardless of gender identity and sexual orientations, and programming for survivors of dating violence should be made locally accessible and available. All young people deserve to feel safe, comfortable, and confident in their relationships.
About the Author:
Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.