eNewsletter masthead
  • LGBT Domestic Violence
  • Volume 11 | Summer 2008

practice tips

Tips for Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Survivors

Sharon Stapel & Sam Chiera
New York City Anti-Violence Project

  1. Work to establish an atmosphere of trust between you and your client.  With LGBT-specific cases this may require familiarizing yourself with a number of otherwise unfamiliar issues including but not limited to the self identification of a client’s gender, the way your client describes the violence and how your client describes their relationship with their partner.
  2. Use gender-neutral terms until the client identifies the abuser’s gender (e.g., “So what is your partner’s name?” instead of “What is his name?”).
  3. Use inclusive (gender neutral) language, ask respectfully how your client identifies and what pronouns they prefer, then mirror their terminology in both identity and language they use to describe the violence. 
  4. Create intake forms that are neutral in tone. For example, instead of “Gender: F or M,” use “Gender: ________,” which allows transgender clients to self-identify. Also consider using language like “partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “husband” on written materials.
  5. Instead of using the phrase “battered women” — which may alienate battered gay men and transmen — use gender-neutral language like “victim” or “survivor.”
  6. Provide gender neutral bathrooms.  Gender neutral bathrooms can alleviate unnecessary strain and anxiety for transgender clients.
  7. Learn how to assess victim and perpetrator by observing behavior and not gender.  Work with your local Anti-Violence Project to obtain the training necessary to make this assessment.  See, www.ncavp.org.
  8. Guard against making assumptions based on gender roles or gender presentation (e.g., butch/femme).  As in all interviews, practitioners should ask detailed questions that allow clients to explain their story.
  9. Don’t over-apologize! Practitioners should also expect that they will make mistakes while learning to work with LGBT-specific intimate partner violence issues.  Should you make a mistake concerning someone’s gender identity or any other LGBTQ related issue, apologize and move on. 
  10. Familiarize yourself with your state’s specific laws concerning intimate partner violence.  Protections for LGBTQ victims of intimate partner vary widely from state to state.  See http://www.abanet.org/domviol/statutorysummarycharts.html
  11. Develop a relationship with your local LGBTQ domestic/intimate partner violence victim’s advocacy group.  There are many organizations working to provide detailed information and services specific to your state.  See http:// www.ncavp.org.