Myths of partner violence

Because of the lack of awareness surrounding LGBTQ partner violence there are many myths and misconceptions of about what constitutes unhealthy and abusive relationships. Listed below are some of these incorrect beliefs and the corresponding facts.

 MYTH
  • Domestic violence is more/less common in heterosexual relationships than it is in LGBTQ relationships.
  • Only heterosexual women are battered.
 FACT
  • Studies indicate that partner abuse occurs in 25-33% of LGBTQ relationships which is approximately equal to the prevalence of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships.
   
  MYTH
  • Violence between LGBTQ partners is just “mutual combat” or a “lover’s quarrel.”
  • It really isn’t violence when a same-gender couple fights. It’s a fair fight between equals.
  • It isn’t violence when gay men fight. Its just “boys being boys.”
  • LGBTQ persons are more likely to equally participate in the violence than are heterosexuals.
  FACT
  • Partner abuse/domestic violence involves one partner who is exerting power and control over another. It can include coercion, intimidation, physical and sexual violence. Labelling violence as “mutual” or as a “Lover’s quarrel” only minimizes and denies the severity of the abuse in a relationship which can often lead to death.
  • While LGBTQ survivors may be more likely to fight back in self-defense due to perceived equality, abuse in a relationship is not “mutual.”
   
  MYTH
  • LGBTQ Partner Abuse is primarily found in relationships where partners are in “roles.”
  • The batterer is usually more masculine, muscular and bigger, while the “victim” is usually more feminine, smaller and weaker.
  • Women do not batter/men cannot be battered.
  FACT
  • Partner abuse is about one person exerting power and control over another. It can be through emotional abuse, economic control, use of weapons, threats, etc. Exerting power does not require that the batterer be more masculine or physically stronger.
  • Partner abuse is not confined to “gender roles.”
   
  MYTH
  • LGBTQ partner abuse occurs primarily among women and men who are poor and/or people of color and those who frequent bars.
  FACT
  • On-going abuse occurs in approximately one-third of relationships regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, religious affiliation, gender identity, birth sex, etc. Domestic violence crosses all boundaries.
  • Isolation is a tool frequently used by abusers to limit opportunities for the battered partners to receive support from others.
   
  MYTH
  • Children are not an issue for battered LGBTQ persons.
  FACT
  • Many LGBTQ families have children through prior relationships, adoption, artificial insemination, etc. Unfortunately, as with all families, children often witness violence exerted by one parent over the other.
   
  MYTH
  • Since women are more likely to be equal in size, the damage inflicted by the lesbian batterer is typically less than that inflicted by the male batterer.
  • The acts of violence perpetrated by gay men are more severe than the acts of violence perpetrated by female batterers.
  • Violence occurs in the LGBT community because of the high rates of alcohol and drug use.
  FACT
  • Women are capable of committing acts of severe violence. Some female batterers have stabbed, shot, brutally beaten and/or killed their partners. Dismissing the potential severity of female battering cab be fatal.
  • Alcohol and other drugs lower control over the inhibitions that may prevent someone from being violent. However, just as in heterosexual partner abuse, many batterers do not abuse substances and/or do not necessarily batter while drunk or high. Ultimately, relationship violence is about exerting one’s control over another. Substances do not cause violence but are a significant co-factor to it.
   
  MYTH
  • The law does not/will not protect LGBTQ victims of partner abuse.
  FACT
  • While there are no laws specific to LGBTQ persons, in the Greater Washington Metro area existing domestic violence, stalking, and other laws are applied in cases of LGBTQ intimate partner violence.
  • Although a relationship may not be given the full legal recognition of a heterosexual marriage, criminal activity against another person, particularly one who shares a home or an intimate relationship, will be pursued by law enforcement.
   
 MYTH
  • Battered LGBTQ men and women are as likely to identify themselves as victims as are heterosexual women.


 FACT
  • LGBTQ domestic violence often remains unseen or invisible, and therefore many individuals are overlooked and do not receive needed help. There is a lack of recognition and legal legitimacy for LGBTQ families and, because domestic violence is thought to occur most commonly in heterosexual relationships, those in the LGBT community may not even realize that they are experiencing it.
   
 MYTH
  • It is generally easier for LGBTQ victims of domestic violence to leave an abusive partner or seek help than it is for battered heterosexual women.
 FACT
  • It is more difficult for LGBTQ survivors to seek help than for heterosexual women. There are few LGBTQ-specific resources available and many service providers are not trained to provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ individuals. LGBTQ individuals may fear how they may be treated and whether or not they will be believed or taken seriously. Seeking services for partner abuse forces someone to reveal their sexual orientation.
  • Many LGBTQ persons have no support from their families because of the refusal of the family to accept the LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
   
 MYTH
  • There is absolutely no difference between domestic violence in same-gender relationships and domestic violence in heterosexual relationships.
 FACT
  • Many of the dynamics of partner abuse are the same in same-gender and opposite-gender relationships.
  • LGBTQ domestic violence has unique factors that relate to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism within society. LGBTQ persons are not afforded basic civil rights. As a result, there are often inadequate and insensitive supports or resources. LGBTQ persons may fear being “outed” after disclosing partner abuse; may be afraid of unfair treatment by law enforcement and service providers; may be concerned about the impact on child custody; etc. In addition, many LGBTQ persons may be struggling with their own internalized homophobia., biphobia, or transphobia.
  • Many service providers are not adequately trained to address the special needs of LGBTQ clients. Domestic violence service providers who generally work with heterosexual survivors may have more difficulty screening and differentiating the LGBTQ batterer and the survivor.
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