Betty Jo BarrettBetty Jo Barrett recently conducted a study of intimate partner violence rates in the LGBT community and found them highest among the bisexual population.

Alarming abuse rates among bisexual community, researcher finds

As Windsor gears up to celebrate its rainbow communities at this weekend’s Pride Fest, a social work researcher has some sobering thoughts about the rates of violence in the LGBT community, and especially among the bisexual population.

“Bisexual individuals are experiencing much higher rates of all forms of violence, and they’re at a particularly high risk of emotional and financial forms of abuse,” said Betty Jo Barrett, an associate professor in the School of Social Work who recently published a paper on the subject in the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services.

“One of the most troubling statistics I’ve ever found as a violence researcher is that one out of two bisexual individuals have said they’ve been a victim of emotional or financial abuse at the hands of an intimate partner,” said Dr. Barrett.

Along with former PhD student Melissa St. Pierre, Barrett analyzed responses to the General Social Survey of Canada, an annual nationally representative telephone survey investigating the social well-being of Canadians.

According to their analysis, about 36 per cent of the 186 people who identified as LGB reported experiencing at least one instance of any form of intimate partner violence, which included physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse.  Emotional and financial abuse was experienced by about 35 per cent of the respondents, while physical or sexual abuse was reported by a little more than 20 per cent.

However, the more troubling statistics, Barrett said, show that almost 47 per cent of bisexual individuals reported experiencing emotional or financial abuse, compared to about 26 per cent of gay or lesbian individuals.  More than 28 per cent of bisexuals reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse, compared to about 15 per cent of gay and lesbian individuals.

Determining why those rates are higher among the bisexual population is difficult, but Barrett believes it may have to do with the fact that bisexuals experience a great deal of marginalization in both the straight community and in the gay and lesbian community.

“We refer to this phenomenon of biphobia, which is basically a fear of bisexuals,” she said. “It’s very much tied to a belief commonly perpetrated in our culture that bisexuality is not a real sexual orientation. We see this minimization of bisexuality as a real identity distinct from a gay and lesbian identity or a heterosexual identity, which means that bisexuals are facing biphobia not just from the heterosexual community but also from within the rainbow community as well.”

Barrett will appear today on Research Matters, a weekly show that focuses on the work of University of Windsor researchers and airs every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on CJAM 99.1 FM.