LGBTQ people form families in a variety of different ways. LGBTQ people have families of origin. A family of origin is a person’s biological family or the family that raised them. LGBTQ people also form families of choice. Families of choice are those people whom a person chooses to surround themselves with as support people. They do not have to be biologically related or related by adoption. Families of choice are support networks of the people who are closest to a person, which may or may not include the family in which they were raised.
LGBT people also form families that can include partners, children, older parents, or pets. Partner abuse can impact an individual’s family. This is as true for LGBTQ families as it is for any other family.
Witness to Abuse
One of the ways that partner abuse and violence impact families is that family members who are not directly abused may witness violence. Children may witness partner abuse. Witnessing abuse can have a wide range of impacts. Some children who witness partner abuse don’t have any long lasting consequences from their experiences. Sometimes witnessing abuse can contribute to a child feelings or behaviors such as: aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression, or sleeping problems. If a child witnesses violence they are also more likely to perpetrate violence.
Parents of LGBTQ Children
At times, it is the parents who witness their child’s abusive relationships. Parents of children who experience LGBTQ partner abuse may feel confused, helpless, or like no one understands what they are going through. Our society doesn’t talk about partner abuse or LGBTQ relationships freely. So, even though they are not alone, they may feel relatively alone. For tips on how to help a loved one stay safe follow these tips for staying safe. Organizations like Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) can connect you with other families of LGBTQ people. Some PFLAG chapters have worked on partner abuse.
Children who witness abuse may have complicated relationships in the future. Young people who witness abuse in their families may be more likely to be abusers in their future relationships. Another possibility that young people may experience is that they may gravitate toward abusive relationships and be abused by their own partner in the future.
Using Families as a Weapon
Abusers can use family members or pets as a way to manipulate relationships. An abuser may threaten to hurt, take away, or manipulate families in order to maintain power in a relationship. This is harmful to LGBTQ people who may not have legal protections that protect their right to see or parent their children. For legal resources, click here.
Leaving an abuser or working on a plan to become safer is often easier when a survivor has a supportive friend or family group. In an ideal circumstance family can help a survivor implement safety tips and safety planning. However, sometimes getting support is complicated if a survivor is not out or their family does not support their relationship. In LGBTQ relationships, friends may act as a major support network. They can help prepare a safety plan.
No family is exactly alike. No one can say how partner abuse will impact a particular family. It is important to know that, no matter what experiences a person is dealing with, there is help available. Please consider working with one of the providers listed here to address the impact of partner abuse.