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LGBTIQA+ people

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The term LGBTIQA+ is used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual people, or people otherwise diverse in gender, sexual orientation and/or innate variations of sex characteristics. Alternative abbreviations may be used in data sources when discussing specific groups within LGBTIQA+ populations.

Research indicates that most LGBTIQA+ people experience some form of violence in intimate partner and/or family relationships in their lifetime. The impacts of these experiences are profound, far-reaching and compounded by stigma, prejudice and discrimination towards LGBTIQA+ people. The drivers of violence are often the same as those identified for violence against women (AHRC 2015; Campo and Tayton 2015; DSS 2022; Hill et. al 2020).

LGBTIQA+ people are recognised as population groups that experience health and wellbeing disparities due to stigma and discrimination. The National Plan to End Violence against Women and their Children 2022–2032 (the National Plan) recommends increased attention to LGBTIQA+ communities to address the high prevalence of violence against LGBTIQA+ people (Campo and Tayton 2015; DSS 2022; Hill et al. 2020).

LGBTIQA+ language

People may use a wide range of terms to describe gender, sexual orientation and innate variations of sex characteristics, and some people may not identify with or use certain terms (Box 1). The terms and language used by LGBTIQA+ people to define their identity are influenced by many factors, including their age, ethnicity, socioeconomic position, and their lived experiences and relationships with others (AIHW 2018).

While reporting on LGBTIQA+ people together provides useful high-level insights, it conceals diversity within the group. It is important to note that there are many factors that can combine to create a risk and experience of violence that is unique to each person, and an individual included in the term LGBTIQA+ may not identify as being part of any single group.

What do we know?

Measuring violence experienced by LGBTIQA+ people

National reporting on the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people is often limited by a lack of data on gender, sexual orientation and innate variations of sex characteristics in data collections. Where data are available, it most often refers to people who identify as gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. Certain groups such as trans, asexual and intersex people remain under-researched and -reported; and current data do not fully describe the complexities and diversities among LGBTIQA+ people (AIHW 2018; Campo and Tayton 2015; DSS 2022).

The Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables, 2020 was developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to standardise the collection and dissemination of data relating to sex, gender, variations of sex characteristics and sexual orientation. Work to implement the standard in national surveys has commenced and will improve the availability of data on LGBTIQA+ people (ABS 2021). In particular, the 2021–22 ABS Personal Safety Survey (PSS) collected data on sexual orientation for the first time to support understanding of the prevalence of FDSV among people with different sexual identities (ABS 2023b, see Box 3). Implementation of the standard is also being considered in national administrative data collections. For example, there was national agreement to collect and supply data on the gender of people admitted to Australian hospitals from 2022–23 (see Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set).

The terms and abbreviations used to describe LGBTIQA+ people can vary depending on the groups or topics being discussed, and the ways in which data are collected. Unless otherwise stated, the AIHW’s FDSV reporting uses the terms and abbreviations used by the data source – for example, where data sources have data only for LGBT people, this terminology has been used within this topic page. 

Similarly, the terms used to describe a person’s sex or gender will depend on how this information is collected in a particular data source. This means that binary language is often used in the AIHW’s FDSV reporting to describe data. The AIHW recognises that binary language does not represent the experiences of all people, and that some people, particularly gender diverse people, may not identify with these terms. Specific information about how sex and/or gender are collected in each data source, is included in the Data sources and technical notes, where available.

What distinct forms of violence are experienced by LGBTIQA+ people?

Discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people may increase their risk of experiencing distinct forms of family, domestic and/or sexual violence (FDSV) when compared with other population groups. However, some LGBTIQA+ people can experience distinct forms of violence that may be referred to as identity-based abuse. Identity-based abuse may include behaviours such as:

  • pressuring a person to conform to gender norms or stop them from accessing gender affirming care
  • corrective rape (a hate crime in which the victim is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation)
  • threatening to ‘out’ the person’s gender, sexuality, HIV status or intersex status
  • exiling a person from family due to their sexuality or gender
  • forcing a family member into conversion therapy (DSS 2022).

Intersex people may also experience body shaming, along with forced and coercive medical interventions and body modifications in childhood and adulthood, as a result of stigma and misconceptions about intersex variations (DSS 2022). 

Additionally, a lack of understanding of these issues by support services may present unique barriers to accessing support for LGBTIQA+ people (Cullen et al. 2022; DSS 2022).

What do the data tell us?

The main data source used in this topic page is the La Trobe University Private Lives 3 survey (see Box 2).

Intimate partner violence and family violence

In 2019, 3 in 5 (61%) respondents to the Private Lives 3 survey had ever experienced intimate partner violence. Emotional abuse (48%), verbal abuse (42%), and social isolation (27%) were the most commonly reported types of intimate partner violence experienced (Figure 1). Cisgender men (57%) were the most common perpetrator, followed by cisgender women (35%) (Hill et al. 2020).

Figure 1: Types of intimate partner and family violence ever experienced by LGBTQ+ people, by perpetrator type, 2019

Source: La Trobe University Private Lives 3 survey | Data source overview

Similarly, 2 in 3 (65%) respondents had ever experienced family violence, not including intimate partner violence. Verbal abuse (42%), LGBTIQ-related abuse (41%), and emotional abuse (39%) were the most common types of violence experienced from a family member (Figure 1). Almost 3 in 4 (73%) indicated the perpetrator of family violence was a parent (including guardian, foster carer, step-parent, or adoptive parent (Hill et al. 2020).

Respondents overall were more likely to experience violence from intimate partners than family members for all forms of violence, except LGBTIQ-related abuse, where 41% indicated abuse occurred from a family member, compared with 10% from an intimate partner (Hill et al. 2020).

There was some variation in experiences of violence by gender:

  • Non-binary respondents consistently indicated higher proportions of violence by any perpetrator when compared to other gender identities. This was consistent across all types of violence except for verbal violence perpetrated by a family member, which was highest for transgender men.
  • Transgender men had the second highest proportion of violence by type of violence and perpetrator, followed by cisgender women, trans women and cisgender men.
  • Cisgender men reported the lowest rates of violence across all types of violence by any perpetrator (Figure 2).

Overall, experiences of violence by sexual orientation varied depending on the type of violence:

  • Verbal violence was the most common type of violence experienced for all sexual orientations, regardless of perpetrator type.
  • All types of violence, regardless of perpetrator, were most commonly experienced by pansexual and queer respondents (Figure 2).

Broadly speaking, respondents who identified as lesbian or gay were more likely to experience physical or verbal violence from an intimate partner than from a family member. Conversely, respondents who identified as bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual or something else experienced physical and verbal violence at higher levels from family members than intimate partners (Hill et al. 2020).

Figure  2: Types of intimate partner and family violence ever experienced, by gender, sexual orientation and perpetrator type, 2019

Figure 2 is a bar graph that shows the proportion of survey respondents who had ever experienced physical, verbal or sexual violence, by whether the perpetrator was an intimate partner or family member, and by the respondent's gender and sexual orientation.

Sexual assault

Almost half of all respondents (49%) to the Private Lives 3 survey indicated having ever experienced sexual assault and 8.9% had experienced sexual assault in the past 12 months (Hill et al. 2020).

Figure 3: Experience of sexual assault, by gender and sexual orientation, 2019

Figure 3 is a bar graph that shows the proportion of survey respondents who had experienced sexual assault in the last 12 months, or experienced sexual assault ever, by the respondent's gender and sexual orientation.

The majority of queer, pansexual and bisexual identifying respondents had experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Additionally, a large proportion of lesbian (46%), asexual (45%) and gay (34%) respondents had experienced sexual assault at some point in their life (Figure 3).

The majority of non-binary, cisgender women and trans men had experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Additionally, many trans women (42%) and cisgender men (35%) had experienced sexual assault at some point in their lifetime (Figure 3).

For the most recent sexual assault, the perpetrator was most commonly identified as a former intimate partner (22%), current intimate partner (19%), friend (19%), casual encounter (19%) or stranger (18%).

The most common gender of perpetrator of the most recent incident of sexual assault were cisgender men (84%). Perpetrators were also identified as cisgender women (14%), non-binary people (1.8%), trans women (1.3%) and trans men (1.2%).

Technology-facilitated violence

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner surveyed more than 3,700 Australian adults aged 18 to 65 on general online safety. The report from eSafety identified LGBTQI+ people as an at risk group for serious online abuse. One in 3 (36%) lesbian, gay and bisexual people reported experiences of image-based abuse compared with 1 in 5 (21%) heterosexual people in Australia. The survey concluded that cyber abuse, image-based abuse and homophobic or transphobic abuse disproportionately affected young LGBTQI+ people (eSafety 2020).

Additionally, a series of research papers from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) examined dating app-facilitated sexual violence (DAFSV), and the disproportionate impact this has on non-heterosexual people. DAFSV is described as sexual harassment, aggression and other violence that occurs online, or facilitates in-person violence. In 2021, almost 10,000 people aged 18 and older who had used a mobile dating app or website in the last five years were surveyed, of which 1,613 identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or not heterosexual (LGB+) (Lawler and Boxall 2023; Teunissen et al. 2022; Wolbers et al. 2022). Among all respondents, almost 3 in 4 (73%) had experienced at least one form of online and/or in-person DAFSV within the last 5 years, and around half (45%) said they had experienced both. The occurrence of violence was especially high for LGB+ women and men, followed by non-binary people and heterosexual women, when compared with heterosexual men. LGB+ respondents were more likely to experience violence online than in-person, and sexual harassment was the most commonly reported type of online violence (Figure 4) (Wolbers et al. 2022). See also Stalking and surveillance.

Figure 4: Experience of online and in-person dating app-facilitated sexual violence (DAFSV) in the last 5 years, by gender and sexual orientation, 2021

Figure 4 is a bar graph that shows the proportion of survey respondents who had experienced online and in-person dating app-facilitated sexual violence, by the type of violence, and by the respondent's gender and sexual orientation.

The survey also found:

  • Despite disproportionate levels of DAFSV, LGB+ women and men had much lower rates of reporting their most recent experience to police when compared with heterosexual men.
  • When DAFSV was reported to police, LGB+ men and women were more likely to report negative experiences than their heterosexual counterparts. See also FDV reported to police and Sexual assault reported to the police.
  • Across all groups, LGB+ men were most likely to report they had received requests for child sexual exploitation materials while using dating apps/websites. Inappropriate requests may include asking for photos of children, questions about children of a sexual nature or offering payment for image-based content of children. This does not mean that these respondents perpetrated child sexual exploitation. The gender of the person requesting content cannot be determined from the data provided (Lawler and Boxall 2023; Teunissen et al. 2022; Wolbers et al. 2022).

Lesbian and bisexual women

There are often complex ways in which the drivers of violence against women and the drivers of violence against LGBTIQA+ people intersect; particularly regarding the binary and rigid constructions of gender (DSS 2022). Previous studies of FDSV in the general population have largely focused on heterosexual women and pose challenges for making valid comparisons with LGBTIQA+ communities.

A comparative analysis of almost 9,000 women from the 2003 Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH, see Data sources and technical notes) provides some insight into experiences of violence for lesbian, bisexual and mainly heterosexual women compared with exclusively heterosexual women. The data do not indicate the gender of perpetrators of violence (AIHW 2019; Szalacha et al. 2017).

One in 4 (25%) women who identified as bisexual or mainly heterosexual, and roughly 1 in 6 (15%) women who identified as lesbian, reported that they had ever been in a violent relationship, compared with 1 in 10 (10%) women who identified as exclusively heterosexual (AIHW 2019; Szalacha et al. 2017).

Bisexual women reported higher proportions across all types of violence (emotional, physical, sexual abuse and sexual harassment) and were more likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression and poor mental health, when compared with women who identified as lesbian, mostly heterosexual, or exclusively heterosexual (AIHW 2019; Szalacha et al. 2017).

Regardless of sexual orientation, emotional abuse was the most commonly reported type of violence. When compared with exclusively heterosexual women, women who identified as bisexual, lesbian or mostly heterosexual were:

  • 2 to 3 times as likely to have been in a violent relationship in the past 3 years
  • twice as likely to report physical abuse by a partner (AIHW 2019; Szalacha et al. 2017).

Gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer men

In 2017–18, University of Western Sydney and ACON, surveyed almost 900 gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer men on sexual and gender identity; experiences of intimate partner violence; attitudes to violence; and bystander awareness and willingness to intervene.

Of the men surveyed in 2017-18, 3 in 5 (62%, or 556) reported that they had experienced physical, verbal or emotional abuse in a relationship, and almost 1 in 4 (26%, or 138) had experienced abuse within the last year (Ovenden et al. 2019).

Respondents most commonly reported that they had discussed their abusive relationship with:

  • a friend or neighbour (35%)
  • counsellor or psychologist (18%)
  • family or relative (17%).

However, 1 in 6 (17%) did not discuss their experience of abuse with anyone (Ovenden et al. 2019).

Around 2 in 5 (43%) respondents reported witnessing violence or abuse between men in a relationship, of which, over three quarters intervened in some way. The form of intervention was most commonly verbal (41%), followed by physical (14%), and sought help (13%). About 1 in 4 (23%) did not know what to do while 1 in 8 (13%) did not intervene (Ovenden et al. 2019).

Services and support seeking-behaviour among LGBTIQA+ people

FDSV specialist services

The 2020 Australian Government House of Representatives inquiry into FDSV identified a variety of barriers to LGBTIQA+ people reporting FDSV and seeking help, including homophobia, transphobia and a fear of discrimination (HRSCSPLA 2021).

LGBTIQA+ people are far less likely than the general population to find support services that meet their distinct needs (DSS 2022). Additionally, a national survey by the University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre of 1,157 workers in specialist family, domestic and sexual violence services indicated:

  • A majority of workers wanted more training on how violence is experienced by LGBTQ+ people.
  • Workers felt there was a lack of training and capacity to support LGBTQ+ communities.
  • A general lack of societal knowledge and awareness more broadly of how violence occurs in gender diverse and same-sex relationships (Cullen et al. 2022).

Additionally, service providers may not recognise violence in LGBTQ+ relationships (Campo and Tayton 2015; Cortis et al. 2018; Cullen et al. 2022).

What are some of the barriers to seeking help?

'As I was in a lesbian relationship and my abuser was female, access to resources at the time was limited. Luckily, things have significantly improved in the last ten years and there is much more support available for those in LGBTIQA+ relationships who are experiencing family violence.'


WEAVERs Expert by Experience

Help seeking

The Private Lives 3 Survey asked respondents who had ever experienced violence from an intimate partner or family member about support-seeking behaviour from various services such as police, doctors, counselling services, sexual assault services or FDV services (see Table 1). Of respondents who reported having ever experienced family or intimate partner violence, 28% reported the most recent incident to a support service (Hill et al. 2020). The respondents who indicated that they had reported it to a service were also asked whether they felt supported by that service. Of the 886 respondents who reported the violence to a counselling service or psychologist, the vast majority (89%) felt supported, whereas of the 279 who reported the violence to police, less than half (45%) felt supported (Table 1).

Table 1: Service type to which intimate partner or family violence was reported the most recent time it occurred, by perceived support, 2019
Service to which violence was reported the most recent timeNumber%Felt supported (%)

Counselling service or psychologist




Police (including LGBTIQ liaison officers)




Doctor or hospital




Lawyer, legal service, court system




Telephone helpline




Domestic or family violence service








Teacher or educational institution




Sexual assault service




LGBTIQ organisation




Religious or spiritual community leader or elder








I did not report this abusive behaviour



Not applicable

Source: Hill et al. 2020.

Is it the same for everyone?

LGBTIQA+ people are a diverse group, and experiences of violence can occur in intersecting ways. National data are limited and data development is required to fully capture the scope of lived experience for LGBTIQA+ people, for example those who are also culturally and linguistically diverse people, or people with disability. Although limited, some data are available for people with disability, First Nations people, and people who live in rural Australia, which are discussed below.

LGBTIQA+ people with disability

Analysis of the Private Lives 3 study to examine the experience of FDSV among LGBTIQ adults with disability was performed with funding from Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Hill et al. 2022). There was not a sufficient number of respondents with disability with an intersex variation for the survey data to reflect their experiences.

The analysis found experiences of intimate partner or family violence were more common for LGBTQ+ adults with disability when compared with LGBTQ+ adults without disability. The proportion of LGBTQ+ adults with disability who had ever experienced intimate partner or family violence increased with the severity of disability:

  • 73% of those with severe disability, 69% of those with moderate disability, and 67% of those with mild disability had ever experienced intimate partner violence, compared with 55% of LGBTQ+ adults without disability.
  • 81% of those with severe disability, 78% of those with moderate disability, and 68% of those with mild disability had ever experienced violence from a family member (excluding their partner) compared with 56% of LGBTQ+ adults without disability (Hill et al. 2022).

Overall, family violence was more common among non-binary people (85%), trans men (84%) and trans women (78%) with disability, compared with cisgender women (77%) and cisgender men (70%) with disability. Broadly speaking, the proportion of LGBTQ+ adults with disability who had ever experienced intimate partner violence was similar across different gender identities (Hill et al. 2022).

First Nations LGBTIQA+ people

Significant diversity exists in gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual expression and lived experiences amongst First Nations LGBTIQA+ people. Brotherboys, Sistergirls and other First Nations LGBTIQA+ people may experience a number of significant and intersecting points of discrimination in Australia (HRSCSPLA 2021).

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) acknowledged First Nations LGBTI people may face specific difficulties in:

  • maintaining cultural ties and family support which may contribute to FDSV
  • gendered cultural initiation processes that are unable to accommodate an individual’s gender expression
  • the gap between Aboriginal-specific service provision and service provision that accommodates for broader LGBTI populations and FDSV (AHRC 2015).

Additionally, there is a lack of research that recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community, and how this may affect the individual, individual expression, and experiences of FDSV. See also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

LGBTIQA+ people in regional and remote areas

Data are not currently available at a national level for LGBTIQA+ experiences of FDSV in regional and remote communities, but the particular risk and lack of support services for regional and remote communities and LGBTIQA+ people has been acknowledged (HRSCSPLA 2021).

Regional and remote communities face particular challenges as a whole, which may be heightened for LGBTIQA+ people experiencing FDSV. Access to LGBTIQA+ specific services that intersect with FDSV support is a critical area of development, particularly for regional and remote communities (DSS 2022).

The Private Lives 3 survey found that LGBTQ+ people residing in inner suburban locations experience lower levels of psychological distress, and better self-rated health than respondents in outer suburban areas, regional cities or towns or rural/remote locations (Hill et al. 2020). Further, a higher rate of respondents in urban areas accessed mental health services that were specifically LGBTIQ-inclusive compared with their peers in rural communities, which may reflect levels of availability (Hill et al. 2020).

For more information see Health services and Health outcomes.

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