Mental health problems and domestic violence are more prevalent among people of diverse sexual and gender identities and women in particular. A possible explanation for their greater vulnerability is the fact that women face very specific stressors. For example, they may experience discrimination related to their sexual or gender identity. The stress factors may also be endogenous, as women may expect to be stigmatized based on their identity.
Robert-Paul Juster, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at Université de Montréal, explored these stressors and spousal violence victimization among women of diverse sexual and gender identities. He and Emma Fedele, a former master’s student in criminology, sought to shed light on the links between minority stressors, different forms of spousal violence, and mental health problems—namely anxiety and depression—among women members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community.
The experts recruited 209 individuals in Québec and Canada who identify as women and who reported at least one incident of violence in an intimate relationship with a woman. They were asked to complete a comprehensive online survey. The recruitment process was carried out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic through 2SLGBTQI+ women’s rights organizations and social networks.
The data revealed that cultivating negative feelings about one’s sexual diversity is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety—a relationship that holds beyond age, ethnicity, sexual and gender identity and victimization. Experiencing physical violence does not appear to worsen mental health issues, at least among the women surveyed. The findings call for interventions to shatter the taboo of internalized homophobia among women of diverse sexual and gender identities.