Abstract: Mandating Inclusion: Trans Perspectives on Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Mandating Inclusion: Trans Perspectives on Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy

Saturday, January 13, 2018: 10:51 AM
Congress (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sid Jordan, JD, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Gita Mehrotra, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background and Purpose: Recent analyses from the U.S. Trans Survey indicates that transgender (hereinafter “trans”) and gender nonconforming people report a high lifetime prevalence of intimate partner (54%) and sexual violence (47%), but infrequently seek support from victim service organizations. The 2013 reauthorization of the U.S. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was one of the first federal statutes to explicitly include “gender identity” for the purposes of anti-discrimination protections and within the definition of “underserved beneficiaries” for the purposes of victim services. To date, there is limited empirical research focused on trans people’s experiences of intimate partner and sexual violence. This study investigates patterns of violence and survival among trans people in order to better understand advocacy needs and barriers to services. The study further considers tensions and opportunities related to mandating inclusion for trans people within the policy and practice frameworks of efforts to end violence against women.

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.