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Hate Crime, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence against the LGBT+ Community

Between 2016/17-2020/21, police recorded hate crimes against the LGBT+ community in England and Wales have almost tripled[1]. As the LGBT+ Commission prepares to hold an inquiry session on the topic, we have put together this non-exhaustive synthesis of existing research to illustrate both the scale of the problem, and some of the ways that it can be addressed.

You can watch the recording of the session below:

Hate Crime

The most comprehensive source of data on the issue of hate crime, domestic violence and sexual violence against the LGBT+ community is Galop, the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity. In Galop’s 2021 Hate Crime Report, they found that “LGBT+ hate crime is disproportionately on the rise in the UK and… the majority of victims are not getting the support they need”[2].

Indeed, in a survey of 1166 LGBT+ people, the researchers found that 64 per cent of respondents had experienced anti-LGBT+ violence or abuse and of this group, 64 per cent experienced this violence or abuse at least monthly[3]. That this abuse is experienced so frequently is a stark reminder that for many LGBT+ individuals, such incidents are a routine and common feature of their everyday lives. Most commonly this takes the form of verbal abuse, however other common forms reported in the survey included harassment, physical violence, sexual violence and outing/doxing[4]. However, as will be noted various times in this article, the LGBT+ community is not homogenous and, while LGBT+ people may experience common issues as a result of their LGBT+ identity, the way in which LGBT+ people individually experience these will be affected by the multiple identities that they hold. Accordingly, proper considerations of intersectionality are essential when considering LGBT+ hate crimes. For instance, one report conducted by Stonewall found that trans people are more likely to experience hate crimes because of their gender identity, as well as their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Similarly, ethnic minority LGBT+ people were significantly more likely than white LGBT+ people to experience a hate crime based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, while disabled LGBT+ people were also more likely than non-disabled people to experience a hate crime[5].

Online abuse is increasingly becoming one of the most prevalent forms of anti-LGBT+ hate crime. One report found that in the last five years, eight in ten LGBT+ people had experienced anti-LGBT+ hate crime and hate speech online, with five in ten respondents experiencing this more than ten times and one in ten experiencing it more than one hundred times[6].

Unsurprisingly, the impact of such hate crime on its victims is severe, whether physical, psychological or emotional. Some victims report changing their behaviours after their abuse. One victim commented:

“It makes me think really carefully about what I say, do or wear to make sure it’s not too gay”[7].

It is also frequently the case that the physical, emotional and psychological impacts of such abuse are intertwined with one another. Indeed, emotional impacts often cause physical ones such as weight and hair loss, low energy, migraines, nausea or insomnia.

Given these impacts, it is unsurprising that victims of LGBT+ hate crimes often have a range of support needs depending on the nature of the crime they experienced, including emotional support, information, or practical assistance. It should be noted here that not all LGBT+ people will want to access support and may prefer to deal with these issues on their own, or with friends. However, it is certainly true that all victims of LGBT+ hate crimes ought to be made aware of the options available to them. Indeed, where victims of such crimes who do want support are unable to access such support, the feeling of further isolation can often only compound the impact of the crime. While most victims of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes (58 per cent) want some kind of support, many victims (79 per cent) are unable to access any support service[8].   

The same survey found that, when asked about how they heard about the support service that they accessed, most commonly (42 per cent), people found out about the services themselves, which is particularly concerning as it is the responsibility of bodies such as local authorities and the police to connect victims of anti-LGBT+ hate crime to relevant support services[9].

Where victims of hate crimes are able to access support, there is significant variation in their experiences depending on the kinds of organisation they use and the form of support they receive. Some people choose to seek help from LGBT+ specialist organisations, as they feel that they will have a better knowledge and understanding of their specific experiences and, as such, will be best placed to support them. Equally, there is a feeling among some victims that generic support services would not be able to meet the specific needs of LGBT+ victims. These sentiments are similarly expressed in the data. In Galop’s 2021 Hate Crime Report, 80 per cent of respondents who accessed LGBT+ specific support were satisfied with the support they received, compared to only 38 per cent of respondents who accessed generic support, with respondents citing better awareness of LGBT+ issues, better response times and greater levels of respect for them[10]. However, as has been noted by the CEO of Galop:

“Local support services remain sparse, particularly outside the major cities and LGBT+ people face a postcode lottery in the help that they receive”[11].

Indeed, specialist, community-based services for LGBT+ victims of hate crime are exceedingly rare in the UK. Perhaps the greatest reason for this is the lack of data that can subsequently be used by commissioners as an evidence base, due to significant levels of underreporting to police, local authorities, third party reporting centres and other support services.  Taking police reporting, only one in eight respondents who were victims of a hate crime reported their experiences to the police, while it is thought that approximately 47 per cent of overall hate crimes come to the police[12]. The reporting picture is particularly poor among LGBT+ young people (aged 18-24), who are the least likely group to report a hate crime, which is particularly problematic as they are the most likely to experience hate crimes based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation[13].

There are several reasons why a victim of LGBT+ hate crime may not report hate crimes to the police. Some of the most frequent include the belief that the police could not or would not have done anything, or due to their distrust or fear of the police based on perceived or experienced homophobia. It is for this reason that almost every available report on the topic of LGBT+ hate crime reporting recommends training for police on the topic, to make LGBT+ victims feel more comfortable in reporting. Perhaps most shockingly, 38 per cent chose not to report as it happens too often to report all the things the hate crimes that they experience.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse against members of the LGBT+ community is an issue with historically rather low awareness. Domestic abuse is generally considered to be an issue that is very gendered, however it also comes with a series of heteronormative assumptions – that domestic abuse is enacted upon women by men within heterosexual relationships. However, evidence suggests that members of the LGBT+ community are at increased risk of experiencing domestic violence.

More than one in four Lesbian women and gay men report at least one form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, a number that rises to one in three for bisexual people. While lesbian women report similar rates of domestic abuse to that of heterosexual women, gay and bisexual men might be twice as likely to experience domestic abuse compared to heterosexual women. Moreover, evidence also suggests that prevalence rates of domestic abuse may be higher for transgender people than any other section of the population[14].

As well as being more likely to experience domestic abuse, there is also evidence to suggest that the LGBT+ community experience domestic abuse in materially different ways to heterosexual people:

“In addition to abuse rooted in patriarchy and harmful and negative gender stereotypes, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors may also experience abuse of power and control closely linked to their sexual orientation and gender identity. These additional factors often underpin the complexity of issues LGBT+ survivors face and include a range of distinct abusive behaviours, where sexuality and gender identity can be used as specific tools to abuse”[15].

One of the most frequently cited examples of this is people threatening to out their partner to their family, friends or colleagues as a form of abusive and controlling behaviour. As such, while there are certainly similar dynamics at play as there are in heterosexual domestic abuse, there will frequently be further considerations arising from sexual orientation and/or gender identity that will need to be taken into account.

However, as is the case with LGBT+ hate crime outlined above, most evidence suggests that LGBT+ domestic abuse is significantly underreported, and LGBT+ survivors are disproportionately underrepresented in both voluntary and statutory services. This underreporting and lower rate of presenting may be the result of a series of factors relating to both the survivors personal support system, their perception of the abuse as well as their views of the service provision being offered and the extent to which it is suitable for LGBT+ people’s specific needs[16]. For instance, LGBT+ men may be less likely to access generic domestic abuse services as they may be perceived to be targeted at women specifically.

As a result, many members of the LGBT+ community may prefer to access LGBT+ specialist services over generic domestic abuse services. Evidence suggests that this is particularly pronounced for cis-male GB survivors, as well as trans survivors. Research has found that trans access to LGBT+ specialist services vary from 3 per cent to 8 per cent for services outside of London and 10 to 14 per cent in London, compared with generic domestic abuses services recording less than 1 per cent of their service users as trans in all areas[17]. Again, a series of contributory factors are likely at play – including fear of being denied support due to their gender history and gaps in provision policy to account for this, or simply the anti-trans prejudice of staff.

However, it is generally the case that LGBT+ specialist domestic abuse services are unavailable in most local authority areas in the UK. One study of such provision in England and Wales (June 2019) found that there were six voluntary sector providers, all based in England. Similarly, while there are currently 900 full time IDVAs working across the two nations, only four of these are hosted within specialist LGBT+ services[18]. Most of these are victim support services based in London, while funding remains a significant issue for LGBT+ domestic abuse services elsewhere[19].

Indeed, it seems that when these services are being commissioned, there is often a very limited consideration of LGBT+ survivors. There are various reasons for this, however some of the most prominent include[20]:

  • Limited funding and/or the short-term nature of funding
  • A lack of LGBT+ survivor consultation
  • Lack of integrated working between commissioning partners, resulting in fragmented budgets.
  • Ineffective or exclusionary commissioning processes which do not recognise the complex nature of domestic abuse or commission in a way that excludes smaller (often specialist or ‘by and for’) providers.

Along with the need for ongoing dialogue with members of the LGBT+ community and LGBT+ survivors to ensure that efforts to co-produce and co-design services are truly meaningful, perhaps the greatest issues facing commissioners is the lack of available data. To be clear, commissioners may be able to draw some general assumptions from:

  • National data on LGBT+ domestic abuse
  • Local demographics data regarding the LGBT+ community
  • Data from the criminal justice system locally
  • Data from local smaller specialist community-based organisations as well as mental health, drug/alcohol and other health services

However, without commissioning specifically local research (see this example of a local needs assessment in Birmingham which led to the founding of an LGBT+ specialist IDVA hosted in Birmingham LGBT[21]), it is often hard for commissioning managers to develop a strong evidence base on which to commission services.

Sexual Violence

Galop’s 2021 Hate Crime Report also contained alarming findings regarding the rates of sexual violence against the LGBT+ community. Of the 64 per cent of 1166 respondents who had experienced anti-LGBT+ violence or abuse, 17 per cent of these had experienced sexual violence[22]. This means that 11 per cent of all respondents to the survey had experienced sexual violence or abuse.

However, while rates of sexual violence against the LGBT+ community are very high, as is the case with domestic violence support services, there are a range of specific needs associated with sexual violence against the LGBT+ community that may lead to LGBT+ people not feeling comfortable presenting to such services:

“Gay and bisexual men have a collective history of discriminatory policing and legal inequality in relation to consensual adult sexual relationships and although times have changed, this community memory, combined with a lack of voice for male survivors, can lead GBT men feeling silenced about their experiences as children or adults”[23].

Similarly, for gay and bisexual men involved in chemsex, they may fear a judgemental response, or even being charged with a drugs offence if they were to report an act of sexual violence against them. Moreover, they may be concerned that speaking up will ostracise them from a community, or out them as gay, or bisexual.

For lesbians, bisexual women and heterosexual trans women who experience sexual violence from a man, they may want support that is able to account for the impact of male sexual violence on LBT women’s sexuality and gender identity. Conversely, LGBT+ women who experience sexual violence from another woman may feel that their experience is not taken as seriously within services or public debates about sexual violence[24].

Additionally, for trans, non-binary and other gender non-conforming people there are a range of further barriers in presenting to services that they may not feel adequately meet their specific needs. Trans people for instance, risk judgemental and ill-informed responses from services including being asked intrusive questions about their identity, body, or gender history which can compound the trauma that they have already experienced. Moreover, because sexual violence services are typically (and for good reason) very gendered, non-binary people may feel that they are not welcome or understood in binary men’s and women’s services, or that they must falsely present as a man or woman to access the support they need. For such service users, it is essential that they are safe in the knowledge that their identity and experiences will be respected, and their personal information kept confidential and will not face.

However, as is the case with domestic abuse services, there are very few LGBT+ specialist ISVAs in the UK as LGBT+ sexual violence remains an area of commissioning for which data is generally very poor. It remains very hard (without commissioned research) to build local evidence bases for LGBT+ specialist services. For most areas, it may be more realistic to build more inclusive practices into their existing ISVAs. This can be done in several different ways including (but not limited to):

  • Training on LGBT+ needs in relation to service provision
  • Writing LGBT+ inclusion into organisational policy
  • Concerted monitoring of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Advertising services in LGBT+ venues and culturally relevant settings

Currently, a particularly pertinent issue in the UK is that of the upcoming ban on conversion therapy and what the scope of the ban will be. This is a particularly relevant issue for LGBT+ sexual violence, as sexual violence is often used by people to punish people for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or to convert them to heterosexuality or the gender they were assigned at birth. In a survey of 935 LGBT+ people across the UK, 23.5 per cent said that they had experienced sexual violence of this nature[25]. Of the LGBT+ community, asexual, non-binary, trans people and intersex people were disproportionately more likely to experience sexual violence as an attempt to punish or convert them[26]

Policing and the LGBT+ Community

The relationship between the police and LGBT+ community has historically been very fractious. Indeed, “the history of policing minority populations has been fraught with persecution and prejudice, which has led to an ingrained mistrust of police forces amongst lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people.[27]” However, in the aftermath of the landmark Macpherson Report, there has been much greater attention paid to the need for accountability and transparency from the police, not just in relation to ethnic minorities (as was the focus of the report), but to other minority groups as well, including the LGBT+ community.

Indeed, in the 20 years since then, local policing authorities across the UK have developed specialist roles in the form of LGBT liaison officers, with a view to overcome of the social barriers that exist between LGBT+ people and the police. The key responsibilities of this role include investigating hate crimes and other anti-LGBT+ incidents, liaising internally with other officers dealing with LGBT+ issues, promoting internal awareness of LGBT+ issues and building trust and confidence in the police force among local LGBT+ people[28].

Such officers have the potential to be very effective in building links with the local LGBT+ community, however research has found that, while liaison officers are often successful in building relationships with LGBT+ community workers, the wider LGBT+ community often have little or no awareness of their role[29]. As such, there is clear need for better engagement with local LGBT+ people, not just community representatives, if the officers are to encourage LGBT+ people to report hate crimes, domestic abuse or sexual violence that they experience, and to feel safe and secure in doing so. However, liaison officers are no silver bullet:

“Although in principle it is ideal to recruit specialist liaison officers to support LGBT+ people, encourage them to report their victimisation, and develop community links, it is operationally difficult to assign and deploy these officers to all incidents involving LGBT+ people as soon as they are reported. Having a centralised network where non-liaison officers can seek advice, gain support, and increase their knowledge of LGBT+ issues can be a useful, internal mechanism that is operationally effective to use”[30].

These internal LGBT+ networks in local policing authorities can help other officers build confidence around issues of LGBT+ identity, language and culture, improving the overall services offered to LGBT+ victims of hate crimes, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Indeed, such networks exist across the country and are represented nationally by national LGBT Police Network.

While such examples are certainly instances of good practice, as the reporting figures above indicate, there remain significant barriers to overcome in this area. However, if efforts to improve the relationship between the LGBT+ community and police are successful in improving rates of reporting, the impact could be very significant. Stronger and more reliable data gives police forces a greater ability to consider earlier interventions, for instance by considering early warning signs, and social determinants of hate crime in local areas and intervening accordingly.

Call to Action

While there are certainly several issues specific to LGBT+ hate crime, domestic violence and sexual abuse, it is also possible to identify a series of common themes that exist across all of these areas. Perhaps most fundamentally, the data across all three of these issues remains poor. While this can be the result of underreporting, poor data monitoring and data collection methodologies as well as a host of other issues including heteronormative assumptions on the part of service providers, the result is the same. It ultimately becomes much harder for commissioners to develop a strong evidence base on which to commission services that are LGBT+ specialist. While it is certainly possible to develop services that are concertedly LGBT+ inclusive, as was indicated above, LGBT+ service users consistently report much more positive experiences in LGBT+ support services as opposed to generic ones. However, there remain only a handful of LGBT+ specialist hate crime support services, IDVAs and ISVAs that are generally located in London, Brighton and Manchester, leaving members of the LGBT+ community facing a postcode lottery in terms of the support they receive.


[1] Home Office, 2021. Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2020-2021. [online] Available at: < Hate crime, England and Wales, 2020 to 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)>

[2] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[3] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[4] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[5] Stonewall, 2017. LGBT in Britain: Hate Crime and Discrimination. [online] Available at: <https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-hate-crime-and-discrimination> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[6] 2020. Online Hate Crime Report 2020: Challenging Online Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/online-hate-crime-report-2020/> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[7] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[8] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[9] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[10] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[11] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[12] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[13] Stonewall, 2017. LGBT in Britain: Hate Crime and Discrimination. [online] Available at: <https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-hate-crime-and-discrimination> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[14] Galop, 2020. Recognise and Respond: Strengthening Advocacy for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/resource-i/> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[15] Galop, 2020. Recognise and Respond: Strengthening Advocacy for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/resource-i/> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[16] Birmingham LGBT, 2014. LGBT Domestic Violence: Another Closet. [online] Available at: <https://blgbt.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FINAL-REPORT.pdf> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[17] Galop, 2020. Recognise and Respond: Strengthening Advocacy for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/resource-i/> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[18] Galop, 2020. Recognise and Respond: Strengthening Advocacy for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/resource-i/> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[19] Domestic Abuse Commissioner, 2021. LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Service Provision Mapping Study. [online] Available at: <https://domesticabusecommissioner.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Galop-LGBT-Domestic-Abuse-Service-Provision-Mapping-Study-Final.pdf> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[20] Galop, 2021. Commissioning for Inclusion: Delivering Services for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/resource-j/> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[21] Birmingham LGBT, 2014. LGBT Domestic Violence: Another Closet. [online] Available at: <https://blgbt.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FINAL-REPORT.pdf> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[22] Galop, 2021. Hate Crime Report 2021: Supporting LGBT+ Victims of Hate Crime. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/hate-crime-report-2021/> [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[23] London Survivors Gateway, 2019. LGBT+ People and Sexual Violence. [online] Available at: <https://www.survivorsuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LGBT-People-and-Sexual-Violence_Galop-and-LSG.pdf> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[24] London Survivors Gateway, 2019. LGBT+ People and Sexual Violence. [online] Available at: <https://www.survivorsuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LGBT-People-and-Sexual-Violence_Galop-and-LSG.pdf> [Accessed 25 February 2022].

[25] Galop, 2022. The Use of Sexual Violence as an Attempt to Convert or Punish LGBT+ People in the UK. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/the-use-of-sexual-violence-as-an-attempt-to-convert-or-punish-lgbt-people-in-the-uk/> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[26] Galop, 2022. The Use of Sexual Violence as an Attempt to Convert or Punish LGBT+ People in the UK. [online] Available at: <https://galop.org.uk/resource/the-use-of-sexual-violence-as-an-attempt-to-convert-or-punish-lgbt-people-in-the-uk/> [Accessed 24 February 2022].

[27] Pickles, James, 2019. Policing hate and bridging communities: a qualitative evaluation of relations between LGBT+ people and the police within the North East of England. Policing and society.

[28] Pakouta and Forsyth, 2020. LGBT Liaison Officer’s Manual of Guidance.

[29] Pickles, James, 2019. Policing hate and bridging communities: a qualitative evaluation of relations between LGBT+ people and the police within the North East of England. Policing and society.

[30] Pickles, James, 2019. Policing hate and bridging communities: a qualitative evaluation of relations between LGBT+ people and the police within the North East of England. Policing and society.

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