CDC Releases Data on Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence by Sexual Orientation

By Rachel Walden — February 25, 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the first-ever set of national data focused on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking victimization by sexual orientation.

According to the findings, lesbians and gay men experience higher rates of partner and sexual violence than do heterosexuals, and bisexual women have significantly higher lifetime prevalence rates of rape and sexual violence committed by any perpetrator (that could include an intimate partner, family member, acquaintance or stranger.)

The data, gathered from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, includes responses from almost 10,000 women; here’s a FAQ about the findings and methodology.

“We know that violence affects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a release. “While intervening and providing services are important, prevention is equally critical.”

Among the findings:

  • 43.8% of lesbian women, 61.1% of bisexual women, and 35.0% of heterosexual women had experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • Approximately 1 in 8 lesbians (13.1%), nearly half of bisexual women (46.1%), and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (17.4%) have been raped in their lifetime (translating to about 214,000 lesbians, 1.5 million bisexual women, and 19 million heterosexual women).
  • 1 in 3 bisexual women and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (15.5%) have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime. (Numbers were too small to be reliable for lesbian women.)
  • More than one-third of lesbians (36.3%), over half of bisexual women (55.1%), and more than one-quarter of heterosexual women (29.8%) have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
  • 23.6% of heterosexual women, 29.4% of lesbian women, and 49.3% of bisexual women had experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with fist or something hard, slammed against something, or beaten).
  • The majority of women who reported experiencing sexual violence, regardless of their sexual orientation, reported that they were victimized by male perpetrators. Most bisexual and heterosexual women (89.5% and 98.7%, respectively) reported having only male perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

Neither the full report nor the sexual orientation report provide information about intimate partner violence related to gender identity, although transgender women and men may be more likely to experience severe partner violence. The CDC notes that the Department of Health and Human Services is working on “developing standardized measures of sexual orientation and gender identity” to include in national surveys like this one in order to collect better data.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs provides some related information in its report, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence, 2011,” using data collected from member and affiliate programs — this limits the data, though, to LGBTQH-identified people who actually sought help from one of the programs.

It’s fairly clear, as the CDC explains, that “more research as well as ongoing data collection is needed,” and that violence against non-heterosexual, non-cisgender populations remains a major concern.

Meanwhile, House Republicans last week introduced their own version of the Violence Against Women Act without provisions for LGBT, Native American, and immigrant populations. We’re still waiting for Congress to do the right thing and pass an inclusive version.

Related: No Country for All Women: Holding Up Violence Against Women Act

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