Same Sex Violence
Battering and sexual violence in same-gender relationships are issues rarely talked about. Until recently relationship abuse within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender communities was systematically minimized or completely denied. However, as found by Renzetti (1992), the existence of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in lesbian relationships occurs at approximately the same rate as in heterosexual relationships, one in four. To being talking about this issue we need to educate ourselves and others about the true dynamics of same-gender battering.
Myth: Abuse/battering that occurs in same-gender relationships is usually mutual.
Fact:: True "mutual battering" is rare. A consensual "fight" is not going on. A cycle of violence that includes control and domination by one of the partners is occurring. Many victims will attempt to defend themselves by fighting back.
Myth: Same-gender domestic violence is sexual behavior, a version of sadomasochism. The victims actually like it and agree to it.
Fact:: Domestic violence is not sexual behavior. In S & M relationships, there is usually some contract or agreement about the limits and boundaries of the behavior, even when pain is involved. Domestic Violence involves no such contract. Domestic violence is abuse, manipulation and control that is unwanted by the victim.
Myth: Domestic violence primarily occurs among LGBT people who hang out at bars, are poor, or are people of color.
Fact:: Domestic violence is a non-discriminatory phenomenon; victims as well as violent and abusive offenders come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic groups, and all educational levels.
Battering has long been one of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community's "best kept secrets". In some ways, violence in same-gender relationships resembles violence in heterosexual relationships:
- Violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or verbal
- The purpose of abuse is to get and maintain control and power over one's intimate partner.
- The abused may feel isolated, terrified, and debilitated by the violence.
- Abuse does not happen all the time, it often occurs in a cyclical fashion.
- Unpredictable attacks are a part of the tyranny.
- The victim/survivor may feel as if s/he cannot do anything right.
- Domestic violence can be lethal.
- The myth persists that abuse is a relationship problem and may be mutual.
- A sense of entitlement exists among perpetrators; they believe that they have the right to empower themselves by disempowering others.
- Abuse in the home severely impacts the children living in that home, whether or not they are the direct recipient of the abuse.
- Substance abuse may make domestic violence more dangerous and damaging.
In other ways, however, violence in same-gender relationships differs from violence in heterosexual relationships:
- Lesbians and gay men who have been abused have much more difficulty finding support.
- The isolation, that already accompanies LGBT person in a society prejudiced against LGBT people is compounded and made worse by domestic violence. The silence about domestic violence among LGBT people further isolates the victim/survivor as well as the perpetrator.
- Utilizing existing services may be tantamount to "coming out" which is a major life decision.
Support services and friends often minimize domestic violence:
- The battered women's movement avoids the fact that women can be as violent and dangerous as men.
- It is assumed that two men or two women in a fight constitutes a fight between equals.
- GBT men often reject the idea that they can be victims within their own community.
- LGBT people approach most shelters, social service agencies, and providers with great caution. Their fear of further victimization through minimizing or disregarding their circumstance remains, along with the fear of rejection and degradation.
- There are no residential shelter services for GBT men in Bellingham. Bellingham's LGBT community is small. Privacy is often difficult to maintain. In all likelihood both the survivor and the abuser may lose their privacy, be "outed" or become the subject of gossip.
- The risk of losing their children to third parties is even greater for lesbian and gay couples when domestic violence is involved.
- Victims may not be as financially dependent on their partners; and children may not be a consideration as often.
Source: Information provided by Wingspan Domestic Violence Project, Tucson, Arizona (2000). Adapted from Crime and Sexual Assault Services (CASAS) website, Student Affairs, WWU