Looking beyond abuse in heterosexual relationships: LGBTIQA+ persons’ experiences of coercive control

Ellen Reeves1

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Family violence research, advocacy and policy is framed around men’s perpetration of abuse against women. This focus is informed by well-established research spanning decades which reinforces the gendered nature of family violence. Feminist researchers look to patriarchal structures of power as a framework for which we understand women’s experiences of family violence and legal interventions. Whilst a focus on male-to-female perpetrated violence is critical, given that the majority of family violence occurs in heterosexual relationships, it has ultimately drowned out the voices and experiences of gender and sexual diverse people. Whilst statistically representing a smaller number of family violence incidences, due to LGBTIQA+ persons representing a smaller faction of society, LGBTIQA+ persons are at a higher risk of experiencing family violence than their heterosexual counterparts. Existing research suggests that there are differences in the experiences, causes, tactics of abuse and help-seeking opportunities available to LGBTIQA+ persons experiencing abuse. This paper utilises data from an online survey which explored Australians’ experiences of coercive control. The survey garnered 1392 responses and of this sample, 244 (17.5%) respondents identified as being sexual diverse (gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual, questioning, other). The paper offers unique insight into how LGBTIQA+ persons experience coercive control, legal and non-legal help-seeking mechanisms and their perceptions on the criminalisation of coercive control. In doing so, opportunities arise to expand understandings of the operation of gender and sexuality in family violence.


Ellen Reeves is a postdoctoral research fellow at Monash University, working within the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre. Her research is focused on the unintended consequences of family violence law reform and women victim-survivors’ experiences with the legal system.


Dec 08 2021