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Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth


Media attention and the literature on lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth overwhelmingly focus on violence involving hate crimes and bullying, while ignoring the fact that vulnerable youth also may be at increased risk of violence in their dating relationships. In this study, we examine physical, psychological, sexual, and cyber dating violence experiences among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth—as compared to those of heterosexual youth, and we explore variations in the likelihood of help-seeking behavior and the presence of particular risk factors among both types of dating violence victims. A total of 5,647 youth (51 % female, 74 % White) from 10 schools participated in a cross-sectional anonymous survey, of which 3,745 reported currently being in a dating relationship or having been in one during the prior year. Results indicated that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are at higher risk for all types of dating violence victimization (and nearly all types of dating violence perpetration), compared to heterosexual youth. Further, when looking at gender identity, transgender and female youth are at highest risk of most types of victimization, and are the most likely perpetrators of all forms of dating violence but sexual coercion, which begs further exploration. The findings support the development of dating violence prevention programs that specifically target the needs and vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, in addition to those of female and transgender youth.

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This project was supported by Award No. 2010-WG-BX-003, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice, or of the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Elements of this paper were reported to the National Institute of Justice in the form of a final technical report as per grant obligations. The authors would like to thank: (1) the administrators, faculty, and staff of schools who assisted us in collecting the data documented in this report, (2) CJ Pascoe of Colorado College and Cindy Southworth, Erica Olsen, and Sarah Tucker of the National Network to End Domestic Violence for their input on survey measures, and (3) the National Institute of Justice and Dr. Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, for their careful review of project findings.

Author contributions

MD and JZ conceived of the study, directed and participated in its design and coordination, and assisted in writing of the manuscript; PL participated in the study’s design and coordination, performed most statistical analyses, and assisted in writing of the manuscript; JY assisted in the study’s design and interpretation of the data, performed some statistical analyses, and assisted in writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Meredith Dank.

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Dank, M., Lachman, P., Zweig, J.M. et al. Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. J Youth Adolescence 43, 846–857 (2014).

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  • Teen dating violence
  • Victimization
  • Sexual orientation