Lesbians and Domestic Violence: Intimate Betrayal

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By Dr. Jen

Lesbiennes et violences domestiques

Domestic violence in the GLBTQI community happens and the rates are alarming! The issue of abuse in LGBTQI relationships has not yet been studied in Africa. Studies in the U.S., however, suggest rates of abuse are equivalent in same-sex as in heterosexual relationships. If equivalent rates occur in Africa as well, where more than 40% of women report beatings at the hands of intimate partners, then you too, dear reader, have a good chance of being in an abusive relationship.

What do we mean by domestic violence?

Domestic violence occurs when a partner / significant other, attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another. It can take the form of:

  • Physical violence: hitting, punching, kicking, biting etc.
  • Emotional abuse: constantly putting down, humiliating, embarrassing, frightening, threatening, etc.
  • Isolating: Controlling contact with others, restricting freedom.
  • Financial control: Fostering dependency, controlling money, property rights.
  • “Outing” – threatening to “out” you.

Here are a three myths about domestic violence and sexual abuse in lesbian relationships

(special thanks to Katy and Pandora’s Project)

Abuse doesn’t occur within lesbian relationships

Studies have shown that lesbians and bisexuals in same-sex relationships experience domestic violence at a rate to that of straight women. Estimates from studies conducted in the 1990’s in the U.S. indicate that between 17-45% of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner, and that 30% of lesbians have reported sexual assault / rape by another woman.

Woman vs. woman violence is not as serious as man vs. woman

Even if two women are equal in terms of physical strength, the distribution of power within that relationship is often highly unequal. Domestic violence is about power, and when there is a power differential, there is the potential for abuse. For example:

  • A partner that has more money may have power over a partner with less money because they may pay the bills, own the house etc.
  • A partner who is not “out” to family and friends by be threatened with being out-ed if they don’t do as they are told.
  • A partner who is the “birth mother” of children may threaten to take the children away.
  • A woman cannot really rape / sexually assault another woman

    False! Sexual assault between women can include:

    • Forced vaginal / anal penetration with digits or objects;
    • Forced sexual touching;
    • Forced oral sex.
    • Relationship Quiz: Am I Being Abused?

      Take the quiz at this link Here

      To be Continued next week

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