Myth. Lesbian and bisexual relationships can’t have domestic violence because two women are involved. Myth. Only the “butch” partner can be abusive. Myth. A physically smaller woman cannot abuse a larger partner. Myth. It’s not violence if your partner has never hit you.
Truth. The rates of domestic violence in same-gender relationships are about the same as domestic violence against straight women. Truth. Being in a relationship with another woman does not exempt you from it.
Like in straight relationships, domestic violence between two women is likely underreported. Similarly, the abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and verbal. It often occurs in a cycle with the intention of maintaining control over one’s partner. The victim might feel alone, isolated and afraid, and is usually convinced that the abuse is somehow her fault. Gender and sexual orientation have very little to do with why and how domestic violence manifests.
Gender and sexual orientation, however, have almost everything to do with how domestic abuse is perceived and treated. One difference is the often hostile and homophobic system towards gay and transgender people. Sometimes using services like a shelter, support group or crisis line means hiding the gender of the batterer to appear as straight. Other times, it can mean “coming out” against one’s will. Additionally, a same-gender couple may not have the same legal protections as people in straight partnerships. If they are financially codependent, they may have no legal process to assist in making sure assets are evenly divided. Lesbian and bisexual survivors may not know other people who are gay. Leaving the abuser could result in isolation. On the other hand, the queer community can be extremely small. Anonymity is not always an option.
What we can do is recognize that domestic violence is real. We must hold each other just as accountable for our actions and words. Being a woman does not give us a “pass.” Period.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
240 west 34th Street, Suite 200
New York, NY 10001
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual &
Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
137 Montague Street, Suite 339
Brooklyn, NY 11201