CDC intimate violence report by gender and sexual orientation

For what appears to the be the first time, the CDC has released a report on intimate partner violence separated out by sexual orientation. As most national level surveys that address domestic violence include very limited samples of out LGBT populations, this is pretty huge. After a quick read, the report seems to confirm what we already knew, that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to have been stalked and experienced rape or physical violence by an intimate partner. While 35% of heterosexual women report one or more of these, 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women report the violations. Heterosexual and bisexual women reported mostly male perpetrators (98.7% and 89.5%), while lesbian women reported mostly (67.4%) female perpetrators.

Bisexual men also reported higher levels than heterosexual men of lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, but gay men had the lowest rate. The numbers might surprise you. 29% of heterosexual men report such violations, while 35.0% of heterosexual women did, with the vast majority of both reporting that the offender was of the opposite sex.

It’s important to note that the takeaway message from these findings is not that men and women batter at the same rate. These statistics are well in line with survey results from national level longitudinal studies such as the National Survey on Families and Households in spirit, if not in absolute percentages (underreporting on such surveys is expected). Extensive work on surveys like this repeatedly emphasize that incidence and report of violence are not the same as power and control. While relatively similar numbers of men (~25%) and women (>30%) report light to moderate physical violence, far more women (23.6% of hetersoexual women to 29.4% of lesbian women) than men (13.9%-16.4%)report severe physical violence, including half of bisexual women.


These statistics underscore the disproportionately large role that men play in perpetrating violence, even while it obscures the larger reasons behind it. They also show those in the LGBT community are at much greater risk for violence and stalking by intimate partner, be it a man or a woman, and hopefully calls attention to the need for the House of Representatives to pass VAWA in the form passed with a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate.


Author: ekfletch

I am an independent researcher on issues of gender, labor, violence, education, and children.

6 thoughts on “CDC intimate violence report by gender and sexual orientation”

    1. I think there are a lot of potential reasons. The explanations I have been offered tend to note that LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless and subject to sexual exploitation. That, combined with a lack of positive same-sex relationship role models can lead to trauma or entrenchment in violent situations. The specter of being different might lead to there being more shame associated with reporting violence, making it harder to leave and thus more likely to escalate, to name a few.

      1. Thank you for your reply! It’s illuminating and I’m starting to understand the pressures the LGBT community faces. Why are they more likely to be homeless? Do they face rejection from their parents / community?

  1. “It’s important to note that the takeaway message from these findings is not that men and women batter at the same rate.”
    Right, because extensive gender-symmetry studies from researchers like Straus, Pizzey, and Gelles have already proven this and beaten this truth to death.
    Also, are you referring to the 2010 CDC survey in this post? Because you ought to know …

    1. Thanks for sharing that additional piece from the NVISVS (I forgot the link the sexual orientation part of the report, which is, as you mentioned, also from the 2010 study). It’s true the gender-symmetry piece has been studied at length (Brush 1990 shows it in the NSFH for example), but I still think worth pointing out because the measures we have for recording and understanding violence are imperfect, relying on self-report, are subject to cultural biases, and don’t tell the full story. I, too, dislike that we’re having the same conversation 25 years later.

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