Faith Community Response to Survivors of Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence who are LGBTQ

What is domestic or intimate partner violence? It is most often described as a pattern of behaviors one person uses to control the behavior of a partner. Discrimination and oppression leading to violence in relationships is too often supported by a judgment of what is ‘moral’ and/or ‘right’. Gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation that deviate from the dominant cultural norms too often lead to marginalization. An oppressor often assumes, and may even claim, community support while acting in violence against a person marginalized in society. Sadly, there is basis for that harmful logic.  Historically, many organizations, especially including faith communities, have provided the ‘moral’ justification for harassment and violence against another on the basis of sexuality and/or perceived gender nonconformity. This oppressive stance cuts deeper when it is internalized, and may lead people who are marginalized to acting out of fear and/or frustration to hurt another as a consequence of the violence that they have experienced.

Who is affected? Lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual people may experience domestic or intimate partner violence. And people who are transgender, or seen as gender variant, may be at greater risk of harassment, intimidation and violence according to a NCAVP report on intimate partner violence.* The response of affirming, respectful community support is essential, but rare for survivors who are part of a same gender couple and for people who are transgender or gender non conforming.  The very real threat of being ‘outed’ or disrespected and the fear of further violence due to biased attitudes of community service providers create real barriers. These barriers prevent survivors from reporting violence and getting help, help to begin healing and foster community reconciliation.

Why should communities of faith care? Faith communities’ messages can positively shape and confirm a cultural view of diversity as normal and integral to well being, challenging the discriminatory definition of ‘normal ‘and ‘moral’ as heterosexual and limited gender expression. No one should be given permission, explicitly with our approval or implicitly by our silence, to act harmfully toward another. This type of insidious oppression and outright violence hurts the individual and harms the entire community’s health and well being. Faith communities can at least covenant to do no harm. Communities of faith may even reach out in care to be a safe space in which visible affirmation of diverse sexual orientations and inclusion of a diversity of gender expressions is respected.

What can you do? Talk within your faith community about how faith informs relationships and sexuality. Consider how your faith affects your sexual and gender expressions, and how that is acted out in your relationships. Learn about the barriers that transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay people face when reporting incidents and accessing support services. Investigate the ways in which conflict resolution is supported by your community of faith. Help your community of faith become better informed about the resources available to offer support within your faith community and the community at large.

Collaborate with other community organizations that are working to support healthy relationships and positive conflict resolution toward individual healing and community reconciliation that includes LGBTQ leaders. Contact Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares) for advocacy support and technical assistance, a member program of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and an affiliated organization of the Church Within A Church Movement.

*The National Coalition of Anti Violence Program (NCAVP) report, Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV Communities in 2012, released on October 1st 2013

This bulletin © 2013 is available for use with proper accreditation to Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares).

About the Author

Rev. J Zirbel

J Zirbel (no pronouns, simply J) is a minister, ordained in the Church Within A Church Movement and co-founder and executive director for Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares).

J served on the Governance Committee of the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs (NCAVP), as a member program of NCAVP, a non-profit working to ...