Domestic Violence in the LGBT* Community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans)

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Historically, though, there has been an overwhelming silence about same-sex domestic violence. Many people still don't believe that same-sex domestic violence really exists, and people who are victims are often ashamed to tell their communities or families. In fact, numerous studies have shown that violence in heterosexual and same-sex relationships occurs at approximately the same rate (one in four).

Myths about same sex violence

Myth: Violence between two men or two women is a "fight" between equals.

Truth: Domestic violence is not the same as a consensual fight, no matter who is involved. Loving, healthy relationships do not include physical fighting. Domestic violence is about control and domination of one person by another; either person could be male, either person could be female. Batterers do not have to be bigger or stronger than the person they abuse.

Myth: If you fight back, then it's not abuse.

Truth: Fighting back is not abuse, nor does it make the relationship "mutually abusive." Survivors have used violence for many reasons, including self-defense, desperation, anger, and to try to stop the abuse. When survivors use violence the results can be complicated. Police are often confused by same-sex domestic violence and may arrest the wrong or both parties. Friends may disbelieve the survivor. Using violence to survive is a sign that something is wrong -- making a plan to get support is important.

Myth: Women are not violent.

Truth: There is ample evidence that both genders have capacity for violence. Some women abuse other women, men, and children. Abusers and their victims come from all genders, races, classes, religions, and regions.

Myth: Lesbian relationships are based on equality - lesbians have ideal, loving relationships.

Truth: Lesbian relationships are just as good and as bad as all other relationships and have most of the same problems. The myth that lesbian relationships are perfect leads to silence among lesbians who are abused.

Myth: Domestic violence primarily occurs among LGBTpeople who hang out at bars, are poor or are people of color.

Truth: Abusers and their victims come from all genders, races, classes, religions, and regions. Racist and classist stereotypes around domestic violence are common not just in the LGBT community, but also in the dominant heterosexual culture.

Myth: The law does not and will not protect victims of same-sex domestic violence.

Truth: Although many law enforcement professionals and court systems are still confused about same-sex domestic violence, there have been many constructive changes in recent years. In many jurisdictions, mandatory arrest policies require the police to intervene and arrest the person they perceive to be the batterer.

Differences Between Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Domestic Violence.

Although many police remain confused when attempting to sort out incidents involving same gender couples and may end up arresting the wrong or both parties in a battering situation, opportunities to educate and train the police and courts about the realities of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are increasing. Differences Between Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Domestic Violence. Although domestic violence is largely the same in heterosexual and homosexual relationships, gay, lesbian and bisexual victims of domestic violence have some additional problems.

Fewer services

To get help you have to come out. There aren't very many services to help lesbians, and women who have been abused by another woman are sometimes treated with ignorance or homophobia by the domestic violence service agencies and shelters that are supposed to help them.

Increased Isolation

The isolation that accompanies domestic violence can be compounded by being LGBT in a homophobic society. Silence about domestic violence within the LGBT community further isolates the victim, giving more power to the batterer.

Protecting the Community

LGBT people feel understandably protective of their relationships in the face of widespread discrimination and negative stereotypes among the wider population. Many LGBT people don't want to admit openly that their relationship-which is already seen as "sick" - has this problem.

Heterosexist Control

One of the weapons that batterers in same-sex relationships may use involve "heterosexist control." This means that the batterer takes advantage of the homophobic and heterosexist nature of the larger society - as well as our own internalized heterosexism - to further dominate and control their partner. Heterosexist control can take a variety of forms, such as threats to "out" the victim and can include the increased risk of losing custody of children.

Reprinted with permission from Public Health - Seattle & King County's web site (