Is violence more common in same-sex relationships? - BBC News
My first lesbian relationship has become abusive. Tell Me About It: a woman gave up everything for her alcoholic lover. Thu, Jul 20, , The idea that intimate partner violence occurs in lesbian relationships may seem ridiculous. I mean, intimate partner violence only happens in. Find out how to tell if the "drama" in your lesbian relationship is actually abuse, and why it's necessary that we talk about abuse in queer.
Many of the tactics for abuse in relationships are used in order to keep a survivor in the relationship and feeling stuck there. That said, lesbians have unique challenges to leaving abusive relationships that heterosexual women do not face. How many resources for IPV survivors do you know? Now how many of those resources specifically advertise services for the queer community?
Further complicating things, some lesbians might struggle greatly with internalized homophobia. Having grown up in our heterosexist, Christian-dominated society, many lesbians experience shame and even self-loathing about their sexuality that makes them more embarrassed to ask for help and that their abusers can play off of.
Family and friends may not know about her sexual orientation and might reject her if they did. This is one reason why some survivors feel that reaching out to the people they know is actually more frightening than remaining in the relationship. Abusive lesbians can use both social and internalized homophobia to their advantage when trying to control and maintain power over their partner. Leaving an abusive relationship can become even more difficult for lesbians of color who not only have to face the issues of sexism and homophobia, but also racism.
The idea of seeking assistance through the court system or law enforcement may be more frightening than remaining in the abusive relationship because of the oppression by both systems. Lesbians of color can feel particularly isolated. They may be completely underrepresented by predominately white lesbian groups that may talk about lesbian abuse as if it is the same for everyone. And whatever comfort a woman of color might usually find with people of her own race may be completely stripped away from her once her sexual orientation is revealed.
Not to mention the issues of immigration status and disability! With each individual challenge, the degree of difficulty a survivor faces in an abusive relationship increases and permits the abusive partner to maintain more control over the relationship. And second, there is no inherent link between masculine women and violent behavior. If there were, then we would expect every masculine being to be violent. Eighty percent of victims reported psychological abuse and verbal abuse.
Lesbians are also less likely to use physical force or threats than gay men. Also homophobia is an important factor in shaping the experience of domestic violence in lesbian relationships.
This may cause a general distaste or negative conception of the lesbian identity, both of oneself and others.
4 Myths About Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships - Everyday Feminism
This behavior is described as horizontal hostility, or minority groups becoming hostile or violent toward each other. In the case of domestic violence in lesbian relationships, this hostility is perpetuated in the form of intimate partner abuse. These negative feelings are then acted out in the form of lesbian battering. Also women fear that they might suffer from isolation, risk of losing their job, housing or family as consequences to homophobia and internalized homophobia.
This form of abuse could result in a variety of negative consequences for the victim, such as being shunned by family members and the loss of children, a job, and housing. In fearing isolation due to homophobia, lesbians also experience the phenomenon of living in the "second closet", or that they must keep both their sexualities and experiences with domestic violence hidden from others due to fear of negative repercussions.
This can also translate into how the couple raise potential children and implement discipline.
Abusive power and control Domestic violence in lesbian relationships happens for many reasons. A common excuse is "I lost control". There is no justifiable excuse or explanation for violence.
Violence is a dangerous and frightening means you use to take control of a situation and to have control over your partner. Abusiveness is not limited to physically striking out. Being emotionally cruel and demeaning to your partner is extremely hurtful and is as harmful as physical assault.
You can learn new ways to deal with your feelings. Some initial steps that you can take are to: Think back to incidents when you have been violent. Identify what was happening, what you were thinking and feeling and what you were doing before becoming violent. Learn to recognize signs or signals that indicate when you may become abusive. Take alternate actions, such as leaving the situation immediately, calling a distress line or seeing a counsellor.
Leave the relationship if necessary to stop your abusiveness. How Professionals Can Respond It is vital that professionals and caregivers examine their own perceptions and feelings about lesbians, and that they acknowledge and deal with any homophobic feelings they may have.
It is essential that we scrutinize our responses in order to change those based on negative stereotypes and ignorance. In abusive situations, a major difference between lesbians and heterosexuals is the impact of the social and political surroundings - which include the reality of homophobia and heterosexism.
Homophobia is the irrational and often unconscious fear and hatred of lesbians and gay men, and the fear of getting close to someone of the same gender.
For instance, it is homophobic to subscribe to myths about lesbians or to approach the process of helping a lesbian without acknowledging the positive aspects of her identification and, instead, over-focusing on the negatives.
Heterosexism is based in the structures and institutions of our society, which establish and perpetuate heterosexuality as the norm. One example of heterosexism is the pervasiveness of questions on forms that assume everyone is heterosexual e. Homophobia and heterosexism affect all of us - whether we are lesbian, gay or heterosexual, whether we are in an abusive situation or not, whether we are friends, social service providers, health care workers, police, legal workers or judges.
When working with lesbians in abusive relationships, it is important to remember that the many reasons for staying in an abusive situation are similar for lesbians and heterosexual women. The abusing partner may be charming, emotionally supportive, nurturing, friendly and sociable between abusive episodes. Just as in heterosexual relationships, there may be economic factors that prevent the abused woman from leaving.
She may continue to blame herself for the abuse, or believe that if she keeps trying hard enough to understand and care for the abuser, she can make the abuse stop.
However, there are many additional reasons that keep lesbians in abusive situations, including the issues of disclosure and fear of facing additional hardships as a result of disclosure of sexual orientation. At times, internalized homophobia can significantly impair a lesbian's self-esteem.
Internalized homophobia means believing that the negative stereotypes and myths about one's own lesbianism are true. Fear of homophobic responses, as well as internalized homophobia, can isolate lesbian couples and add considerable stress to their relationships.
Fear of homophobia affects an abused lesbian's ability to turn to social services and legal systems. It increases her fears that she will not be believed, that there will not be an adequate response to the abuse, and that she or her partner will somehow be punished for being lesbians.
Is violence more common in same-sex relationships?
Further, a lesbian may believe that women are not abusive and she will therefore excuse or deny the violence. For the lesbian who is abused, leaving the partner or giving up on the relationship may feel to her as if she is giving in to the negative stereotype that lesbian relationships are pathological or transitory.
Do not assume that an abused woman's partner is male. In the first contacts with you, a lesbian may disguise the gender of the abuser. She is more likely to reveal that the abusive partner is another woman once the helping process is underway, and particularly if you use language that demonstrates that you do not automatically assume that the abusive partner is male and that you do not judge her choice.
Upon disclosure, it is very important that you impart an attitude of acceptance about her sexual orientation and continue to support her in her acceptance of herself as a lesbian. A lesbian may be mistrustful of any helpers she perceives as homophobic. She may also be more likely to seek out a female rather than a male helper. A clinical issue that may arise is initial wariness and mistrust of female helpers because of her experience of abuse by her female partner. Be aware of the prevailing myths about lesbian relationships.
The first priority is to assess safety issues and to help set up a protection plan. Document the abuse and begin to address the medical and legal issues as you would with any assaulted woman. A lesbian who has been abused will likely be anxious over confidentiality about her sexual orientation.
Her choice to make disclosures to family, caregivers, children, friends, co-workers or members of her ethnic or racial group is hers and hers alone. Her choices need to be respected and supported. Reassurances that you will respect and honour her choices over disclosure will need to be repeated. A lesbian will need additional support and counselling regarding disclosure of her sexual orientation in order for her to access shelters, the police and the legal system.
Most shelters do not have policies and procedures that would guarantee the lesbian a safe place or automatically keep the abuser from finding her or gaining admission to the shelter - although they will take such steps once they are aware of the woman's situation. Nor is there any guarantee that there will be non-judgmental, non-homophobic responses by police or legal workers.
Advocacy might be an important part of your work. Be aware, for example that: Self-blame, guilt and shame are common emotional responses for women abused in their relationships. These will be primary issues to address in counselling the client.
She will need to talk in detail and to express the multitude of feelings she has about what has happened to her. To do so, she must feel that she is in a safe, accepting environment. She needs to know that she is not to blame for being abused. She will want to gain an understanding of her situation and continue to make choices about what she is going to do.
It can be helpful for the woman to know she is not isolated in her experience, that others have similarly been abused. It is also helpful for her to understand abuse as a means for her partner to gain and maintain power and control over her. Underscoring all your work with the client is the need to assist her to regain self-esteem and confidence so she can come to be in control of her own life again.
Be aware that within lesbian communities there may be some idealization of women and lesbian relationships. Consequently, there can be either a reluctance to recognize or a minimization of the seriousness of abusive relationships.
Sexual assault and sexual coercion or coercion to take part in sexual activity are not uncommon forms of abuse. This is an important area for caregivers to explore and to give the abused woman permission to talk about.
We have found it particularly hard for lesbians to disclose this form of abuse, just as it is difficult for heterosexual women to talk about it.
Caregivers not only have to be comfortable themselves in exploring this aspect of abuse but need to be prepared to return to these questions with the client as she may initially be reticent to discuss it.
It may be helpful to consult with a lesbian therapist who is knowledgeable about abuse. The matter of establishing supportive social networks needs to be considered.
Within the lesbian community, resources that can help the client may be available.
Referral to a support group for lesbians who have been abused is desirable. At present, not many groups of this nature exist. Therefore, if a lesbian asks to be part of a group that is primarily composed of heterosexual women, it is essential that group leaders support her in the group.
They must be prepared to respond by raising lesbian issues in the group. The group needs to be adequately informed that abuse occurs across sexual preferences as well as across racial and class lines and that homophobia, as well as misogyny, oppresses all women.
Consider the following when establishing supportive networks: You can educate yourself about lesbianism and resources within the lesbian community that your client can use for support. Your client may not identify herself as a lesbian, but rather may see herself as loving a particular woman. She may therefore lack some of the supports available in the lesbian community. With some women of other racial or ethnic groups, the primary identification may be racial or ethnic.
Lesbian identification may not be as relevant. Disabled lesbians need even more support given the experience they often report of being oppressed and devalued by sexism, heterosexism and ableism. If you do couple counselling with lesbians, interview the partners separately if you suspect that there is abuse in their relationship. When violence has been disclosed, do not engage in couple counselling unless the abuse has stopped for a reasonable period of time, the abuser is receiving help, and the partner is no longer afraid of her.
Otherwise, you risk perpetuating the abuse. Know that lesbians belong to every race, class, age and profession. Learn about the positive aspects of lesbianism and the array of services that exist as part of the lesbian culture.
Knowledge of the positive aspects of being lesbian and "lesbian pride" is essential if we are to eliminate the social causes of abuse in lesbian relationships. We encourage shelters, helplines and professional associations to have educational materials, discussions and workshops about lesbianism, unlearning homophobia and heterosexism. Work toward creating an atmosphere where gay and lesbian colleagues can be comfortable and open about their orientation. This will enhance the response to the problem of abuse in relationships.
Conclusion We have only begun to scratch the surface of a complex and deep-seated issue. Although our research findings are preliminary, this may be a first step toward understanding abuse in lesbian relationships. It is important that we continue to name the violence in lesbian relationships. We must also continue to combat heterosexism, racism and homophobia, as well as explore the effects of internalized homophobia and misogyny on lesbian relationships.
More specifically, our survey results indicate a need for many services and resources in order to respond adequately to this issue. Many lesbians mentioned the need to educate the lesbian community, as well as to develop appropriate social, medical and legal services that address abuse in lesbian relationships. Women also expressed a need for self-help groups and treatment groups for victims of violence and for perpetrators of violence. Shelters that are safe for lesbians are also needed, in addition to other specialized services such as legal clinics and counselling centres that are informed and supportive.
Overall, much work is still needed to respond to this issue. It is unlikely that separate specialized services for lesbians can be developed across the country; therefore, it is incumbent upon existing social service agencies to respond to this issue.
Domestic violence in lesbian relationships - Wikipedia
This can include hiring "out" lesbians, creating a safer environment for lesbians - as clients and staff - and engaging in public education campaigns that acknowledge lesbian abuse.
Above all, lesbians who are being abused need safety and support. Abusers must take responsibility for their behaviour and get help. Professionals and caregivers must acknowledge this issue and ensure that their services meet the needs of lesbians. Friends and families need to become aware of how they can be supportive. Violence in lesbian relationships is part of the continuum of violence against women in our society.
We all have to break the silence and address abuse in lesbian relationships. Only then can we stop the cycle of violence. Additional Readings Blenman, Adrienne The hand that hits is not always male.
Canadian Woman Studies, 11 4 Violence in Gay Male and Lesbian Relationships: Implications for Practitioners and Policy Makers.