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1 Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
LGBT 1 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 enforcement, government agencies, and the general population acknowledge that domestic violence is a serious public health problem.
The most commonly understood type of abuse involves partners of the opposite gender engaging in behaviour that is both physically and mentally harmful, with the victim typically being the female. Less universally recognised is the occurrence of domestic violence among partners of the same sex.
Research indicates that domestic violence among same-sex couples occurs at similar rates as domestic violence among straight couples. Unfortunately, domestic violence victims in same-sex relationships are not receiving the help they need.
This is due to the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, law enforcement’s failure to identity and properly handle domestic violence cases involving people of the same sex, and the shortage of resources available to victims of same-sex partner domestic abuse.
Lawmakers and social service providers should reconfigure the traditional model of domestic violence prevention and treatment to include individuals involved in same-sex relationships.
Rate of domestic violence in same -sex couples
The majority of gay and lesbian families are happy, healthy, and well-functioning, similar to that of healthy heterosexual families. Domestic violence in same-sex families does occur, however. Studies have found that domestic violence occurs among same-sex couples at comparable rates to straight couples:
2 Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Comparing domestic violence in straight and same -sex couples
Both straight and gay victims of domestic violence experience a similar pattern of abuse, albeit with some notable distinctions.
Straight and same-sex domestic violence share many common characteristics:
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 heterosexual relationships:
This can leave the victim with no legal rights should the couple separate. The abuser can easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help.
Even when the victim is the legally recognised parent an abuser may threaten to out the victim to social workers hostile to gays and lesbians, which may result in a loss of custody. In the worst cases the children can even end up in the custody of the abuser.
3 Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Challenges to addressing same -sex domestic violence
The generally accepted model of a male aggressor and female survivor cannot be easily applied when dealing with victims in same-sex relationships. Same-sex couples there- fore face certain impediments to having their domestic violence issues recognized and addressed that straight couples do not:
And officers may fail to report an incident of domestic violence since the two parties involved may be unwilling to divulge their relationship status. In some cases, the victim will be detained instead of the aggressor because the latter was physically smaller.
Some laws cover gay and lesbian victims explicitly in their anti-domestic violence laws, while others cover gay and lesbian victims though gender-neutral language. A federal law is needed, however, to provide uniform and comprehensive protections for all same-sex couples.
Policy solutions for addressing same -sex domestic violence
A number of policy solutions would address the challenges that both victims and survivors of same-sex domestic violence face. They include:
4 Center for American Progress | LGBT Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Domestic violence among same-sex couples is a serious public health concern. Victims of same-sex domestic violence face added challenges when attempting to receive help, as outlined above.
More gay and lesbian victims of abuse are reporting their experiences as the general public has become increasingly more accepting of same-sex relationships. Still, barriers to equal treatment for same-sex couples remain.
Survivors of same-sex domestic violence can receive the recognition and help they need with further research, better training for law enforcement officials, and more funding for relevant programs.