Identity Abuse as a Tactic of Violence in LGBTQ Communities: Initial Validation of the Identity Abuse Measure

Julie M. Woulfe, Lisa A. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Intimate partner violence (IPV; i.e., physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by a current or former partner) remains a public health concern with devastating personal and societal costs. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals are also vulnerable to a dimension of IPV called identity abuse (IA); that is, abuse tactics that leverage systemic oppression to harm an individual. Yet, we know little about its relative prevalence in subgroups of the LGBTQ community. This study developed and evaluated a measure of IA, and explored its prevalence in a sample of 734 sexual minority adults. The sample included women (53.1%), men (27.4%), and transgender or gender nonconforming “TGNC” (19.3%) participants. The majority of participants identified as queer or pansexual (38.7%), then gay (23.6%), lesbian (22.8%), and bisexual (13.6%). Participants completed an online survey that included measures of IA and physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The IA items formed a unidimensional factor structure with strong internal consistency and construct validity. Nearly one fifth of the sample (16.8%) experienced past year IA and 40.1% reported adult IA. Women experienced greater exposure to IA in adulthood than men, and TGNC participants reported higher rates of IA in adulthood and in the last year compared to their cisgender counterparts. The odds of queer or bisexual participants reporting IA in adulthood were almost three times higher than gay participants, and two times higher than lesbian participants. Findings have implications for advancing assessment of partner abuse in the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ-competent clinical care, and training of practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2656-2676
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • domestic violence
  • identity abuse
  • intimate partner violence
  • prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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