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Abuse in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Relationships

Lesbian battering is the pattern of violent and coercive behaviors whereby a woman seeks to control the thoughts, beliefs or conduct of her intimate partner, or to punish her intimate partner for resisting the perpetrator’s control over her. Resistance and self-defense do not constitute “mutual battering.” Psychological abuse in lesbian relationships can be subtle and confusing. Political ideology and understanding of oppression can get twisted around to justify abusive behavior.

How Lesbian Battering is Similar to Battering in Heterosexual Relationships

  • No one deserves to be abused.
  • Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological behavior, as well as verbal behavior intended to humiliate or coerce.
  • Abuse often occurs in cyclic fashion.
  • Abuse can be deadly.
  • The purpose of the abuse is to maintain control and power over one’s partner.
  • The abused partner feels alone, isolated, afraid and usually convinced that the abuse was somehow her fault or could have been avoided if only she had known what to do.

How Lesbian Battering is Different from Heterosexual Battering

  • Lesbians who have been abused have much more difficulty finding appropriate support than straight women.
  • Utilizing existing services is tantamount to “coming out” and hence is a major life decision.
  • Support services and friends often minimize lesbian violence for a couple reasons:
    • The lesbian community doesn’t want to destroy the myth of a “lesbian utopia.”
    • The battered women’s movement doesn’t want to destroy the myth that all violence is caused by men.
  • To complain about lesbian abuse is to reinforce the stereotype that lesbians are “sick.” No one would claim that straight relationships in general are mentally unstable because some of them are abusive.
  • Lesbians have to face not only the sexist culture, but also a homophobic one as well. A woman of color must face sexism, homophobia AND racism.
  • Lesbian survivors may know few if any other lesbians. Leaving their abuser could mean total isolation.
  • Lesbians usually aren’t as tied financially to their partners as straight women.
  • The lesbian community is small, and in all likelihood everyone the survivor knows will soon know of her abuse.

Source: Womenspace Lesbian Alliance

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