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Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community

Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community

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A look at the less universally recognized occurrence of domestic violence among partners of the same sex.
A look at the less universally recognized occurrence of domestic violence among partners of the same sex.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Jun 14, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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1Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
1 Disclaimer: This fact sheet focuses on domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples, but many issues overlap for bisexual and trans-gender survivors of domestic violence as well.
Law enorcemen, governmen agencies, and he general populaion acknowledge hadomesic violence is a serious public healh problem. Te mos commonly undersoodype o abuse involves parners o he opposie gender engaging in behavior ha is bohphysically and menally harmul, wih he vicim ypically being he emale. Less univer-sally recognized is he occurrence o domesic violence among parners o he same sex.Research indicaes ha domesic violence among same-sex couples occurs a similarraes as domesic violence among sraigh couples. Unorunaely, domesic violence vicims in same-sex relaionships are no receiving he help hey need. Tis is due o helack o legal recogniion o same-sex relaionships, law enorcemen’s ailure o ideniy and properly handle domesic violence cases involving people o he same sex, and heshorage o resources available o vicims o same-sex parner domesic abuse.Lawmakers and social service providers should recongure he radiional modelo domesic violence prevenion and reamen o include individuals involved insame-sex relaionships.
Rate of domestic violence in same-sex couples
Te majoriy o gay and lesbian amilies are happy, healhy, and well-uncioning, similaro ha o healhy heerosexual amilies. Domesic violence in same-sex amilies doesoccur, however. Sudies have ound ha domesic violence occurs among same-sex couples a comparable raes o sraigh couples:
One ou o our o one ou o hree same-sex relaionships has experienceddomesic violence.
By comparison, one in every our heerosexual women experiences domesic violencein her lieime.
2Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Comparing domestic violence in straight and same-sex couples
Boh sraigh and gay vicims o domesic violence experience a similar patern o abuse,albei wih some noable disincions.Sraigh and same-sex domesic violence share many common characerisics:
Te patern o abuse includes a vicious cycle o physical, emoional, and psychologicalmisreamen, leaving he vicim wih eelings o isolaion, ear, and guil.
 Abusers oen have severe menal illnesses and were hemselves abused as children.
Psychological abuse is he mos common orm o abuse and physical baterers oen blackmail heir parners ino silence.
Physical and sexual abuses oen co-occur.
No race, ehniciy, or socio-economic saus is exemp.Bu domesic violence in same-sex relaionships is disincive in many ways romdomesic violence in heerosexual relaionships:
Gay or lesbian baterers will hreaen “ouing” heir vicims o work colleagues, amily,and riends. Tis hrea is amplied by he sense o exreme isolaion among gay andlesbian vicims since some are sill closeed rom riends and amily, have ewer civilrighs proecions, and lack access o he legal sysem.
Lesbian and gay vicims are more relucan o repor abuse o legal auhoriies.Survivors may no conac law enorcemen agencies because doing so would orcehem o reveal heir sexual orienaion or gender ideniy.
Gay and lesbian vicims are also relucan o seek help ou o ear o showing a lack o solidariy among he gay and lesbian communiy. Similarly, many gay men and womenhide heir abuse ou o a heighened ear ha sociey will perceive same-sex relaion-ships as inherenly dysuncional.
Gay and lesbian vicims are more likely o gh back han are heerosexual women.Tis can lead law enorcemen o conclude ha he ghing was muual, overlookinghe larger conex o domesic violence and he hisory o power and conrol inhe relaionship.
 Abusers can hreaen o ake away he children rom he vicim. In some saes, adop-ion laws do no allow same-sex parens o adop each oher’s children. Tis can leavehe vicim wih no legal righs should he couple separae. Te abuser can easily usehe children as leverage o preven he vicim rom leaving or seeking help. Even whenhe vicim is he legally recognized paren an abuser may hreaen o ou he vicim osocial workers hosile o gays and lesbians, which may resul in a loss o cusody. In he wors cases he children can even end up in he cusody o he abuser.
3Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Challenges to addressing same-sex domestic violence
Te generally acceped model o a male aggressor and emale survivor canno be easily applied when dealing wih vicims in same-sex relaionships. Same-sex couples here-ore ace cerain impedimens o having heir domesic violence issues recognized andaddressed ha sraigh couples do no:
Authorities often lack the knowledge of how to handle domestic violence casesinvolving people of the same gender.
 An ocer may misake wo males livingogeher or roommaes, or example. And ocers may ail o repor an inciden o domesic violence since he wo paries involved may be unwilling o divulge heirrelaionship saus. In some cases he vicim will be deained insead o he aggressor because he later was physically smaller.
Same-sex partners lack the resources needed to help them get out of abusiverelationships.
 While domesic violence shelers appear o be increasingly responsiveo he needs o lesbian vicims, gay male vicims are rarely admited. Services or gay men are pracically nonexisen.
Survivors of same-sex domestic violence lack the same legal recognition and protec-tion as straight survivors.
Currenly, a pachwork o sae laws exis ha ofer someproecions o gay and lesbian vicims o domesic violence. Some laws cover gay andlesbian vicims explicily in heir ani-domesic violence laws, while ohers cover gay and lesbian vicims hough gender-neural language. A ederal law is needed, however,o provide uniorm and comprehensive proecions or all same-sex couples.
Policy solutions for addressing same-sex domestic violence
 A number o policy soluions would address he challenges ha boh vicims and survi- vors o same-sex domesic violence ace. Tey include:
New legal inerpreaion o exising domesic violence laws a all levels o governmenha incorporaes same-sex couples wihin he deniions o domesic violence andrelaed paries.
Providing local, sae, and ederal unding o educae law enorcemen and social serviceproviders abou LGB people, esablish same-sex domesic violence prevenion pro-grams, and suppor organizaions ha specically address same-sex domesic violence.
Mandaed culural compeency raining or organizaions receiving ederal dollars oimplemen domesic violence prevenion or reamen programs.

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Charlene Muehlenhard added this note
Where did these data come from? Who was sampled, and how were the samples obtained? How was domestic violence defined? How were the questions asked? Was it defined similarly in studies of same-sex and mixed-sex couples? Without reference citations, it is impossible to understand these data.
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