LGBTQ+ Victimization Study

In 2016, United States lawmakers considered more than 200 laws that would affect LGBTQ+ individuals—ranging from issues like bathroom access for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to whether businesses could deny services to LGBTQ+ people.

In the context of these legislative debates and in the wake of the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, RTI released the first-ever report to summarize 20 years of evidence on violence perpetration, victimization, consequences, and fear across several large fields of research.

Numerous studies have suggested LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be victims of various forms of violence and victimization, including bullying, harassment, violence, physical and sexual assault as well as hate crimes. Despite the perception that society is becoming more open and accepting of LGBTQ+ people, victimization disparities have not improved since the 1990s, when they were first measured. Some forms of victimization, particularly those aimed at youth, appear to be worsening.

Studies indicate that LGBTQ+ individuals experience violence and victimization in disproportionate numbers through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Research also confirms that physical and verbal abuse of LGBTQ+ students during the school day is commonplace.

Although it’s often thought that strangers are more likely to perpetrate violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, our research found that bias-related verbal, physical, and sexual victimization is more often perpetrated by close family members or partners of LGBTQ+ people—with bisexuals particularly likely to be victimized.

Research on perpetration and victimization is always challenging; however, research on the victimization of LGBTQ+ individuals is further limited by inconsistent measurements of sexual and gender minority status. Research on gender minority individuals (including transgender individuals) lags behind research on sexual minority individuals (including lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer individuals). An increase in this research could inform the development of proper interventions and safety measures.