LGBTQ and Domestic Violence

This guide is a repost from Center for American Progress LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet and is meant to provide you with general information on Domestic Violence  issues among the LGBTQ population in the U.S.  Please feel free to share any additional information you may have!

Research has shown that domestic violence victims in same-sex relationships are not receiving the help they need.  This is due to several reasons, including:

  • Authorities often lack the knowledge of how to handle domestic violence cases involving people of the same gender
  • Same-sex partners lack the resources needed to help them get out of abusive relationships
  • Survivors of same-sex domestic violence lack the same legal recognition and protec­tion as straight survivors

Studies have found that domestic violence occurs among same-sex couples at comparable rates to opposite-sex couples:

  • One-out-of-four (25%) to one-out-of-three (33%) same-sex relationships has involved domestic violence
  • By comparison, one in every four (25%) women in opposite-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime

Opposite-sex and same-sex domestic violence share many common characteristics:

  • The pattern of abuse includes a vicious cycle of physical, emotional, and psychological mistreatment, leaving the victim with feelings of isolation, fear, and guilt
  • Abusers often have severe mental illnesses and were themselves abused as children
  • Psychological abuse is the most common form of abuse.  Physical batterers often blackmail their partners into silence
  • Physical and sexual abuses often co-occur
  • No race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status is exempt

But, domestic violence in same-sex relationships is distinctive in many ways from domestic violence in opposite-sex relationships:

  • Gay or lesbian batterers may threaten “outing” their victims to work colleagues, family, and friends.  This threat is amplified by the sense of extreme isolation among gay and lesbian victims who are still closeted from friends and family, have fewer civil rights protections, and lack access to the legal system
  • Lesbian and gay victims are more reluctant to report abuse to legal authorities. Survivors may not contact law enforcement agencies because doing so would force them to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Gay and lesbian victims are also reluctant to seek help, out of fear of showing a lack of solidarity among the gay and lesbian community.  Similarly, many gay men and women hide their abuse out of a heightened fear that society will perceive same-sex relation­ships as inherently dysfunctional
  • Gay and lesbian victims are more likely to fight back than are heterosexual women.  This can lead law enforcement to conclude that the fighting was mutual, overlooking the larger context of domestic violence and the history of power and control in the relationship
  • In some states, adop­tion laws do not allow same-sex parents to adopt each other’s children.  This can leave the victim with no legal rights to his/her adopted children with the abuser, should the couple separate.  The abuser can then easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help.  Even when the victim is the legally recognized parent, the abuser may threaten to out the victim to social workers who are hostile to gays and lesbians, which may result in a loss of custody.  In the worst cases, children can even end up in the custody of the abuser

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