Domestic Violence In Lesbian Relationships


image by Jay

Lesbians in abusive relationships obviously feel affection for their partner or they wouldn’t be with them. I don’t know many women who would let someone they don’t love physically or emotionally assault them. I  know plenty however that do not know their own worth. I can count on both hands and half a foot the number of women I personally know that have been in abusive relationships at one time or another. When I stop to consider that half of them were in same-sex relationships it becomes even more apparent that domestic violence is indiscriminate and crosses all bounds. It begins the same way most relationships do. Two women share a mutual attraction and begin to fall for each other. That feeling manifests itself through intense like or love for one another.

You adore her charm and you consider her a sweet heart although you know she has character flaws, but who doesn’t.  You’ve seen her blow up and lose her cool on other people, but not you. Not yet. It scary when she does, but at the same time you never thought you’d be subjected to that side of her.

It starts verbally or emotionally but it doesn’t look the same in all relationships. Something happens that sets her off on a tirade of insults or worse that you may consider trivial in retrospect, but these episodes escalate over time into more serious and frequent verbal or physical attacks.

The matter may be so minuscule that by the time you start to feel the situation spiral out of control, things die down just as quickly as they began. For that reason you might have thought that it was no big deal, though in reality it is just the beginning. 

Eventually it becomes a tug of war for control of every aspect of your life. You’re made to feel inferior, small, and inconsequential so that you will comply to her wants, needs and demands. The refusal to comply initiates yelling verbal insults, hitting, pushing and shoving just to name a few. She may spend your combined money for bills and household expenses on expensive new items for herself. She has no regard for your needs when she’s in an abusive mindset.

But it’s her sweetness you remember the most. When she’s showering you with apologies and gifts for her behavior. Her charm is what you recall when you’re deciding whether or not to get out of the relationship or stay. You feel guilty because she cooks, cleans, irons your clothes, brings home the bacon and caters to your wants and needs. And you do the same for her. Until something sets her off. That abuse is not what lingers on your mind in the aftermath of a violent episode. Again, you’re met with her charm and faux sincerity because you believe she’s sorry and will never do it again. At least that’s what you’ve successfully convinced yourself of. You even feel guilty about thinking about asking for help or leaving and begin to justify her behavior by highlighting your own inadequacies. 

Some battered lesbians try to physically protect themselves from being abused. It could be that they fight back more often. Those who fight back to defend themselves often save their own lives, but still there are others who suffer from guilt because they too have acted violently. This feeds into the notion of mutual abuse, which is patently false. It can hide the fact that one woman is exerting power over the other. When a battered lesbian believes she is mutually abusing her lover, she tends to protect the abuser, which further preserves the relationship and prohibits the abuser from assuming responsibility for her actions.

Battered lesbians describe the pattern of abuse as bouts of terrorism and control. Their abusers have learned that violence works toward achieving control over their partner. While in the relationship it can be hard to decipher abuse, which is a contributing reason why it goes unreported so often. The victim is made to feel like a willing participant.

Law enforcement agencies and relationship counselors found themselves in the position of having to define domestic abuse within a same-sex framework. Since many lesbians have internalized misconceptions about same sex abuse,  it’s not surprising to learn that many professionals as well as law enforcement agencies once shared these views.

“She’s smaller than you, how could she have been violent?” “How could she have control over the situation when you’re so strong willed and assertive?” “You’re older than her so it’s hard for me to believe she gets violent with you.” 

If the punishment fit the crime, more victims would come forward. The belittlement and shame that accompanies making such a charge can be an excrutiating burden to bear alone. There is little to no advocacy for victims of same-sex abuse in particular and often the system will perpetuate the victimization of the victim by holding them accountable for some facet of the abuse, and by not providing beneficial services. 

Make up sex in these relationships is a dangerous oxymoron. What it borders is rape even if the abused partner can no longer find the strength or courage to say no. Her muscles are aching, she can barely breathe; she is exhausted and cannot find the energy to push her sometimes lover, sometimes attacker off. This is common in abusive relationships.

My advice forwomen in abusive relationships is to generate a safety plan if you don’t already have one. Confide in a friend or loved one. If possible, document the abuse in a journal that’s kept somewhere safe, preferably at a friend or family members house. This is risky, but it’s just another safety measure. When a woman fills out a order of protection there are a range of questions that must be answered concerning specific instances of abuse. Understand that you are not alone, but you have the strength to break free of the relationship even if you only have yourself to rely on. Breaking the cycle of abuse starts with accepting that abuse is occurring and talking about what’s happening.

If you have a friend or family member in an abusive relationship, please do not be afraid to speak up. Talk to them privately. Let them know you care, you’re there for them and you will be there whenever they are ready to leave.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)
Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7




3 Responses to “Domestic Violence In Lesbian Relationships”
  1. Britney Bennett says:

    One thing is probably the same with lesbian relationships as it is with straight ones – victims too often stay with their abusive partners. It's a shame.

  2. wazi says:

    Telle:Let me first say that this is a much need article and well written. I really dont think peeps realize how REAL this is in our community, i have dated several women that have been victims of domestic abuse and when i heard about it my heart broke, i even find myself crying for them whenever i think about it. it's hurting and distubing to know that some women really dont know their self worth, it pains me everyday to know that the stats for abuse in same sex relationships are on a crazy high and thats only for whats being reported, it's scary to know that help and resources are limited to help PEOPLE who need it to get out of's also blows my mind that for most women that are in or have been in abusive relationships tend to look for those same traits in the next person that their with.( i know that the last statement is a whole different subject that can be discussed at your leisure lol). i just think that it's high time for this to be discussed more so that other people can see that again this is REAL and we do need the help/resources just as much as other people and that the stigma of "secrecy" be lifed once and for all…

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