INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE IS ALSO AN ISSUE IN SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS
Intimate partner violence is a highly prevalent issue in our society. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.” Studies have estimated that at least 25% of women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and that only 2.5% of these cases are reported to police. We know that this phenomenon is a consequence of societal silence, victim blaming, and tolerance for violence against women (Gracia, 2004).
Now, when you hear about domestic abuse, the first image that comes to mind is often that of a violent man assaulting a woman. And indeed, a majority of IPV cases follow that pattern. More and more movies, TV shows, and books decide to tackle the topic of domestic abuse, and they all tend to depict this power dynamic. Consequently, a majority of awareness campaigns, public research funding and policies also address the issue through this lens. Despite the undeniable progress that this increase in visibility suggests, this has dangerous consequences, as it completely leaves the homosexual experience out of the public conversation happening around intimate partner violence. Yet, studies suggest that people in same-sex relationships experience IPV at the same rates as people in heterosexual relationships. Some argue that the rate could even be higher in lesbian relationships (Renzetti, 1992). Worryingly, the number of reported cases of IPV in same-sex relationships increases every year that passes. Though this could simply be the result of greater acceptance of homosexuality as a whole, as one of the biggest inhibitor of report of same-sex domestic abuse remains the fear of being mistreated by the justice system because of sexual orientation, the realization should still be a cause for great concern. Studies have shown that domestic abuse reports in same-sex relationships are not taken as seriously by police as they are in heterosexual relationships, where police response is already often inadequate. Some states don’t even offer any protection to domestic abuse victims in same-sex relationships.
Very few research studies have focused on the specificity of IPV in same-sex relationships, and those that have were often conducted using small, non-random samples. This lack of research and information leads to increased danger for victims, as a lack of visibility impacts everything from police response to legal resources and safe spaces. We need more information to be able to act successfully towards more prevention and resources for victims.
In what has been described as an era of reckoning for abuse, we must not forget to include LGBT people in our conversations and in our research.
References: Gracia E. Unreported cases of domestic violence against women: towards an epidemiology of social silence, tolerance and inhibition. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2004;58:536-537.
Renzetti, C. M. (1992). Violent betrayal: Partner abuse in lesbian relationships. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.
NCADV. (2015). Facts about domestic violence and physical abuse. Retrieved from www.ncadv.org