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Intimate partner violence in Rainbow communities

Saturday, November 25, 2017


White Ribbon Day is a moment each year to reflect on New Zealand’s reported rate of domestic and intimate partner violence – the highest in the developed world.

Most often we speak of male violence against women because it is so prevalent. Last year, 89% of the applications for protection orders were made by women – and just 10% by men. However this is by no means the only form of intimate partner violence in New Zealand.

Intimate partner violence appears in all different relationships – whether you’re straight, gay, bi, queer or if you’re trans, gender diverse or cisgender (someone whose sex and gender match).

Recent research by organisation Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence has found that intimate partner violence is a significant issue facing people of diverse sexes, sexualities and genders in New Zealand.


While violence in Rainbow communities can be similar to that in other relationships, it also includes behaviour unique to the community and more likely to be experienced by people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities. Some of the violence the Kahukura report highlights as having been experienced by respondents includes:

Emotional violence

  • Being criticised for sexuality or gender identity
  • Having their partner threaten to “out” them, or stop them from “coming out”
  • Having their hormones or gender reaffirming equipment hidden or thrown away (for trans and gender queer people)
  • Having their partner intentionally use incorrect pronouns or names
  • Being isolated from friends, family, others in the Rainbow community
  • Being controlled, e.g. partner making all the decisions, keeping track of them, constantly texting/calling.

Physical violence

  • Being pushed, slapped, hit, kicked, choked or bitten
  • Loved ones, pets or children being threatened or harmed
  • Partner threatens to commit suicide during an argument
  • Damaging property

Sexual violence

  • Unwanted kissing, touching, showing of body parts
  • Being forced to be involved in sexual videos or photos
  • Pressured to have sex or engage in sexual activities by being worn down, threatened with force or threat of rumours being spread about them, being told this was expected behaviour for their sexual or gender identity, or when drunk, drugged or asleep
  • Being flashed or having a partner masturbate in front of them
  • During consensual sex, being pressured to do other sexual acts you don’t want to do
  • Rape - oral, vaginal or anal


People of diverse sexes, sexualities and genders also face unique challenges when accessing support following intimate partner violence.

Deciding to seek help in the first place can be difficult. Survivors often report that they don’t know where to go for help or are worried they won’t be treated fairly and fear discrimination.

Many survivors also minimise their experiences or don’t recognise their experience as intimate partner violence, having only seen heterosexual portrayals of violence.

As with other cases of intimate partner violence, survivors are also threatened by the perpetrator not to seek help, frequently with the warning that no one would believe them.

If a survivor does choose to get help however, barriers still remain as many services for survivors of intimate partner violence are often sex segregated. This complicates access given that gender is not binary and it’s not as simple as needing to provide services just for “women” or “men”.  

Kahukura’s research found that as a result, very few survivors seek specialist help – this needs to change.


  • If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 111
  • OUTLineNZ: 0800 OUTLINE (9am-9pm weekdays, 6pm-9pm weekends)
  • RainbowYOUTH: (09) 376 4155 (11am-5pm weekdays)
  • TOAH-NNEST: 24-hour helplines based on your location
  • Youthline: 0800 37 6633 (free 24-hour line) or free text 234
  • Women’s Refuge: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (free 24-hour line)
  • Shakti: 0800 SHAKTI (free 24-hour line)
  • Shine: 0508 744 633 (9am-11pm, 7 days a week)
  • InsideOUT
  • Talk to a school counsellor or someone you trust

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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