Method:. This paper draws on qualitative interviews with ten key informants who are trans people working in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) advocacy services in the United States. The interviews were conducted in Fall 2015 as part of the National LGBTQ DV Capacity Building Learning Center for the creation of the National Institute on LGBTQ IPV. Participants were recruited using an open announcement circulated online and through targeted invitations of the researchers and partner agencies of the Learning Center. Trans-identified members of the research team conducted 80-100-minute interviews using video technology. The ten informants lived and worked in seven cities in six states, and were diverse in terms of job role, organization, gender identity, racial/ethnic identity, and class background. Three independent researchers conducted open coding to identify key themes and subthemes and conducted selective coding to elucidate multi-vocal perspectives.
Findings: Analyses revealed four major themes related to the dynamics of violence and survival: 1) the nexus of interpersonal violence and structural inequities, including employment, access to food and housing, and incarceration; 2) re-traumatization and co-occurrence with multiple sources of violence; 3) history of violence across the lifespan; and 4) a cultural landscape that broadly condones violence against trans people. Findings related to inclusion in existing DV/SA services included: 1) ongoing exclusionary policies and discriminatory practices; 2) survivors’ avoidance of law enforcement and emergency medical services; 3) the need for and insufficiency of staff training; 4) perceptions that inclusion is costly; 5) siloing of and reliance on LGBT specific services; and 6) tensions related to gendered language, programming, and ideologies that underpin the field’s paradigm for understanding gender-based violence.
Conclusions and implications: The findings suggest that nondiscrimination policies alone have been insufficient to turn the tide of exclusion. Existing DV/SA services are often ill-equipped to provide adequate advocacy or to mitigate the root causes of violence in the lives of trans people. Greater investment is needed for the development of intimate partner and sexual violence prevention and intervention models that can ameliorate, rather than reproduce, violence against trans people.