Victims of same-sex domestic violence face added challenges when attempting to receive help, as outlined above. More gay and lesbian victims of abuse are reporting their experiences as the general public has become increasingly more accepting of same-sex relationships. Still, barriers to equal treatment for same-sex couples remain. Survivors of same-sex domestic violence can receive the recognition and help they need with further research, better training for law enforcement officials, and more funding for relevant programs. Download this fact sheet Read this fact sheet in your web browser Law enforcement, government agencies, and the general population acknowledge that domestic violence is a serious public health problem.

Rate of domestic violence in same-sex couples The majority of gay and lesbian families are happy, healthy, and well-functioning , similar to that of healthy heterosexual families. 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.

Comparing domestic violence in straight and same-sex couples Both straight and gay victims of domestic violence experience a similar pattern of abuse, albeit with some notable distinctions. Straight and same-sex domestic violence share many common characteristics: The pattern of abuse includes a vicious cycle of physical, emotional, and psychological mistreatment, leaving the victim with feelings of isolation, fear, and guilt. Abusers often have severe mental illnesses and were themselves abused as children.

Psychological abuse is the most common form of abuse and physical batterers often blackmail their partners into silence. Physical and sexual abuses often co-occur. No race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status is exempt. But domestic violence in same-sex relationships is distinctive in many ways from domestic violence in heterosexual relationships: 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. Lesbian and gay victims are more reluctant to report abuse to legal authorities.

Survivors may not contact law enforcement agencies because doing so would force them to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay and lesbian victims are also reluctant to seek help out of fear of showing a lack of solidarity among the gay and lesbian community. Similarly, many gay men and women hide their abuse out of a heightened fear that society will perceive same-sex relation- ships as inherently dysfunctional.


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Gay and lesbian victims are more likely to fight back than are heterosexual women. This can lead law enforcement to conclude that the fighting was mutual, overlooking the larger context of domestic violence and the history of power and control in the relationship. Abusers can threaten to take away the children from the victim. This can leave the victim with no legal rights should the couple separate.

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The abuser can easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help. Even when the victim is the legally recognized parent an abuser may threaten to out the victim to social workers hostile to gays and lesbians, which may result in a loss of custody. In the worst cases the children can even end up in the custody of the abuser. Challenges to addressing same-sex domestic violence The generally accepted model of a male aggressor and female survivor cannot be easily applied when dealing with victims in same-sex relationships.

Same-sex couples there- fore face certain impediments to having their domestic violence issues recognized and addressed that straight couples do not: Authorities often lack the knowledge of how to handle domestic violence cases involving people of the same gender. An officer may mistake two males living together for roommates, for example.


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  5. And officers may fail to report an incident of domestic violence since the two parties involved may be unwilling to divulge their relationship status. View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were nearly 2 times more likely to be electronically bullied.

    Houry, M. All Other Topics Email.

    Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community - Center for American Progress

    Media Inquiry Form. Section Navigation. Facebook Twitter Email Syndicate. Press Release: Percentage of Students Who Were Ever Physically Forced to Have Sexual Intercourse View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were more than 3 times more likely to have ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

    Percentage of Students Who Experienced Sexual Dating Violence View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were more than 2 times more likely to have experienced sexual dating violence. Percentage of Students Who Experienced Physical Dating Violence View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students were more than 2 times more likely to have experienced physical dating violence. Percentage of Students Who Were Bullied on School Property View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were nearly 2 times more likely to be bullied on school property.

    Percentage of Students Who Were Electronically Bullied View High Resolution Version Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were nearly 2 times more likely to be electronically bullied.

    Teen Dating Violence in America

    Spokespersons Debra E. Jonathan Mermin, M. Laura Kann, Ph. Related CDC Sites. Page last reviewed: August 11, Content source: