Lesbians and gay men have been victims of rape and sexual abuse at rates comparable to or higher than rates in the heterosexual community. In "Comparing Violence over the Lifespan in Samples of Same-Sex and Opposite Sex Cohabitants" (Violence and Victims, vol. 14, no. 4, 1999), researchers Patricia Tjaden, Nancy Thoennes, and Christine J. Allison found that cohabiting lesbians were nearly twice as likely as women living with male partners to have been forcibly raped as a minor (16.5% versus 8.7%) and nearly three times as likely to report being raped as an adult (25.3% versus 10.3%). The study also found that 15.4% of cohabiting gays were raped as minors, while 10.8% were raped as adults. The rate of rape for heterosexual men living with female partners was insignificant.
The researchers found that cohabiting gays usually had been raped by strangers and acquaintances, while cohabiting females usually had been raped by intimate partners. A vast majority of the rape victims, regardless of gender or sexual preference, were raped by men.
Gay and lesbian cohabitants were also significantly more likely to report being physically assaulted as a child by an adult caretaker. Among gays, 70.8% reported such violence, compared to 50.3% of heterosexual cohabitants. Among women, the figures were 59.5% and 37.5%, respectively. Gay and lesbian cohabitants also experienced higher levels of physical assault in adulthood.
The study also found that same-sex cohabiting partners reported significantly more intimate partner violence than did cohabiting heterosexuals. About 32% of gay respondents said they had been raped or physically assaulted by a spouse or cohabiting partner at some point in their lives, compared to just 7.7% of heterosexual men. Among lesbian cohabitants, 39.2% reported having been physically assaulted by a spouse or cohabiting partner, compared to 20.3% of women living with male partners. Tjaden, Thoennes, and Allison noted that lesbian cohabitants were also more than twice as likely to report having been victimized by male intimate partners than by female intimate partners, with 30.4% of the lesbian cohabitants raped or physically assaulted by male intimates. Only 11.4% of that group said they were raped or physically assaulted by female intimate partners. The same group reported less violence by their female partners than did heterosexual women living with males, leading the researchers to conclude that women are far more likely to be assaulted by male intimate partners than by female intimate partners.