The reality of partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships has only recently been exposed to most of society. Survivors of LGBT abuse, however, have always known what our community has tried to deny: abuse happens to us, too.
Statistics and survivor's stories now show us undeniably that abuse happens just as much in queer relationships.
- Between 25% and 33% of relationships between lesbians, gay, bisexual, or transgender partners include abuse, a rate equal to that of heterosexual relationships.
- Seven states exclude same-sex victims of domestic violence from qualifying for a domestic violence protective order: South Carolina, Arizona, Montana, Delaware, Louisiana, New York, and Virginia. In Kansas, LGBT people can get Protection From Abuse Orders against their same-sex partner.
- The number of domestic violence reports by queer men (52%) and queer women (48%) are essentially equal.
- Sources of assistance typically available to battered heterosexual women, including police, battered women's programs, medical personnel, clergy, and family members may hold prejudice against and/or be unresponsive to LGBT survivors.
- The abuse is frequently difficult for the survivor and others to recognize because of the false yet powerful belief that domestic violence only occurs between men and women.
-Annual Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Domestic Violence, 2001
MYTHS & STEREOTYPES
MYTH: Battering/abuse does not occur in lesbian, bisexual, gay, or transgender relationships. Only men abuse women.
FACT: Domestic violence exists among all types of relationships. In the lesbian community, the extent and severity of the abuse is becoming increasingly evident. Despite fear and community denial, more and more queer folks are speaking out about battering and abuse in their relationships.
MYTH: Domestic violence only affects certain groups of LGBT people.
FACT: Violence and abuse are found in all parts of our community. No group - regardless of race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, education, politics, religion, or lifestyle - is free from relationship abuse. Queer people who abuse their partners can be friendly, physically unintimidating, sociable, and charming. Queer people who are abused can be strong, capable, and dynamic.
MYTH: In same-sex relationships the problem is really just arguments or "mutual abuse," not domestic violence.
FACT: The issue in partner abuse is power and control. The survivor's needs are usually subordinated and s/he often changes hir behavior to accommodate or anticipate hir partner's demands. This unequal power relationship distinguishes battering from fighting. In an abusive relationship, fighting back is self-defense, not "mutual battering."
MYTH: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people can leave abusive or violent relationships easily.
FACT: Abusive relationships are rarely only violent or abusive. Love, caring, and remorse are often part of the pattern of abuse. This can leave a survivor feeling confused and ambivalent about what s/he is experiencing. Emotional or economic dependency, shame, or isolation can make leaving seem impossible. In addition, an LGBT person trying to leave an abusive relationship can experience added barriers because of homophobia and heterosexism in the judicial and legal system, social service organizations, domestic violence programs, and family.
MYTH: Factors such as substance abuse, stress, childhood violence, or provocation really cause battering and abuse.
FACT: An abusive person chooses to be violent and is responsible for hir behavior. Individuals and communities deny this responsibility. We want to find excuses. Alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic violence.
MYTH : The batterer will always be butch, bigger or stronger. The survivor will always be femme, smaller or weaker.
FACT: This myth grew out of what people think victims look like and unfortunately focuses on the narrow stereotype that gay and lesbian domestic violence is physical and strength related. This is simply not true. Size, weight, butchness, femmeness, or any other physical attribute or role is not an indicator of whether or not a person will be a batterer or a survivor.
MYTH: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender domestic violence is sexual behavior - a version of S/M.
FACT: Partner abuse is not sexual behavior. In S/M relationships, there is an agreement about the limits and boundaries or the behavior, even when pain is involved. Partner abuse entails no such contract. Domestic violence is abuse, manipulation, and control that is unwanted by the survivor. Like survivors of other crimes, survivors of partner abuse do not enjoy the violence they experience.