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Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community

Updated on July 16, 2011

Domestic violence is a violation of human rights  in any relationship, regardless of the gender or sexual identity of the parties involved and regardless of the relationship between the victim and the abuser. It is difficult enough for people in heterosexual relationships experiencing domestic violence to talk about their situation.

People in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) community are faced with even more obstacles. In the past people in same-sex relationships rarely admitted to  experiencing domestic violence and for this reason  many people still doubt whether it even exists.  The fact is that studies show that domestic violence in same-sex relationships has the same rate of occurrence as in heterosexual relationships - a staggering one in four.   There are various reasons as to why the victims of same-sex domestic violence rather keep the battering a secret.

  • People outside the LGBT community often perceive violence between two males or two females as less intimidating and less traumatic. The truth is that in this community this violence is still domestic violence and the victims will be as traumatized as domestic violence victims in heterosexual relationships.
  • The main reason that domestic violence occurs is to show dominance and to gain control over the victim. The abuser may be smaller and weaker in stature than the victim. hen there is abuse in a relationship there is never equality - even if the partners are of the same sex.
  • Many people feel that the minute the victim fights back the relationship becomes mutually abusive and there is no longer a victim. Abused people will fight back for various different reasons, including self-defense, anger, helplessness and in an attempt to end the abuse. In same-sex relationships where the victim retaliates by fighting back this can complicate matters. This is more likely to happen in same-sex relationships where neither party has a biological advantage over the other party. The authorities unfortunately already have difficulty in understanding these relationships and both parties may end up being arrested.
  • Although women are supposed to be the gentler sex there is sufficient evidence to prove that they are capable of being violent abusers. There are some women who abuse men and children and there are those that abuse other women in same-sex relationships. Both abusers and victims are found in both sexes and in all races, religions, regions and walks of life.
  • It is a common misconception that lesbian or gay relationships are based on equality and are ideal, loving relationships. The truth is that these relationships are no different from heterosexual relationships and can be as dysfunctional as any unhealthy heterosexual relationship. The fact that people perceive lesbian relationships to be so ideal makes it more difficult for the victims to talk about the abuse.
  • The stigma attached to domestic violence in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships makes it difficult for any victims of domestic violence to admit that they are being physically abused. Uninformed people tend to think that domestic violence is limited to a lower class of people and is more prevalent among people of color.

  • There are many people in the LGBT community who believe that the law does not make allowance to protect victims of same-sex relationships. Admittedly  there is still widespread confusion about same-sex domestic violence among many law enforcement professionals and court systems. There have however been positive changes in recent years and many jurisdictions now make it compulsory for the police to intervene and arrest any person that they perceive to be guilty of battering, irrespective of the nature of the relationship.
  • There are most definitely not many domestic violence service agencies and shelters that accommodate lesbians. Many shelters for abused women treat lesbians with apprehension, partly due to prejudice against homosexuals and partly due to ignorance. This means that either the victim has to lie about the gender of the abuser or hide the true gender if people just accept that they are heterosexual. To tell the truth about their same-sex relationship is a major life-changing decision and it could mean risking their job or custody of their children.
  • Abusers generally subject their victims to isolation- for the LGBT this is aggravated by a homophobic society. As the LGBT society tends to remain silent on issues of domestic violence this isolates the victim even further which naturally suits the abuser perfectly.
  • Many LGBT people do not publicly admit to being involved in a same-sex relationship which makes it even more difficult for them to reveal that they are being abused by a partner of the same sex.
  • The heterosexist nature of larger society provides the batterer with another weapon in same-sex relationships. Many of these abusers take advantage of society's prejudice by threatening to disclose the partner's sexual preferences if they have as yet not "come out of the closet".
  • Many heterosexuals don't even fully understand domestic violence in "normal" relationships. For a member of the LGBT community to disclose that they are victims of domestic violence to uninformed heterosexuals reinforces their perceptions of same-sex relationships to be "abnormal". This perception will further isolate the victim.
  • The LGBT community is not very supportive of the victims within their community as many of them want to maintain the myth that same-sex relationships are immune to these type of problems common to heterosexual relationships as any negative publicity may impede progress towards equality.
  • Same-sex partners who have set up house together do not have the same legal rights as married heterosexual partners when their relationship ends. They have no legal recourse in claiming their share of the assets. Fortunately they are usually more financially independent which counts in their favor when they end the relationship.
  • Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals are often targets of domestic violence by their own families who cannot come to terms with the victim's sexual identity.

Domestic Violence in LGBT community - Video

Treat These Victims With the Respect That They Deserve

Society is a long way from accepting people that do not conform to their norms. When it comes to domestic violence we need to put all of our prejudices aside and realize that all domestic violence should be treated with the same abhorrence irrespective of the victim and abusers sexual preferences. All people experience the same hurt and the same damage and should be treated with the respect that they deserve.

By discriminating against these victims we are subjecting them to a second victimization which is unfair and cruel.


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