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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE LGBT COMMUNITY

Research indicates that domestic violence among same-sex couples occurs at similar rates as domestic violence among straight couples. Unfortunately, domestic violence victims in same-sex relationships are not receiving the help they need. This is due to the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, law enforcement’s failure to identity and properly handle domestic violence cases involving people of the same sex, and the shortage of resources available to victims of same-sex partner domestic abuse.  Lawmakers and social service providers should reconfigure the traditional model of domestic violence prevention and treatment to include individuals involved in same-sex relationships.  The majority of gay and lesbian families are happy, healthy, and well-functioning, similar to that of healthy heterosexual families.  Domestic violence in same-sex families does occur however.  Studies have found that domestic violence occurs among same-sex couples at comparable rates to straight couples:                                                                                                          One out of four to one out of three same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence.                                                                                                                                 By comparison, one in every four heterosexual women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime.                                                                                                                                 Both straight and gay victims of domestic violence experience a similar pattern of abuse, albeit with some notable distinctions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     But domestic violence in same-sex relationships is distinctive in many ways.                                                                                                                                                                         Gay/Lesbian batterers will threaten "outing" their victims to work colleagues, family, and friends.  This threat is amplified by the sense of extreme isolation among gay and lesbian victims since some are still closeted from friends and family, have fewer civil rights protections, and lack access to the legal system.                                                                         Abusers can threaten to take away the children from the victim.  In some states, adoption laws do not allow same-sex parents to adopt each other's children.  This can leave the victim with no legal rights should the couple separate.  The abuser can easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help.                                                          The generally accepted model of a male aggressor and female survivor cannot be easily applied when dealing with victims in same-sex relationships.  An officer may mistake two males living together as roommates, for example, and not recognize it as a incident of domestic violence.  Laws are needed to provide uniform and comprehensive protections for all same-sex couples.                                              

 

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