LGBT+ couples struggle with domestic violence. For those who lack the support afforded to heterosexual couples, it’s much worse.
People tend to think gender-based and domestic violence are abuses unique to heterosexual couples, but same-sex couples go through abusive relationships too. They too have died at the hands of their lovers.
Abuse can claw its way into any unstable same-sex relationship where lesbians adhere to the same patriarchy of a straight relationship, or where a gay man feels he can use sex or verbal bullying to establish dominance over his partner. Often the partner recognised as more masculine is in a position of power, which can lead to abuse.
“The National Violence Against Women survey found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex partner experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes, compared with 7.1 percent and 20.4 percent for men and women, respectively, with a history of only opposite-sex cohabitation.” The survey also investigates the levels of abuse with transgender respondents and found an incidence of: “34.6 percent over a lifetime according to a Massachusetts survey.”
A common question directed to same-sex couples is who takes on the role of the woman and man respectively? It’s a question that refers to who the submissive partner is in the house – the female role. And it’s based on a heteronormative prism applied to relationships. To ask who the man and woman is assumes that relationships can only consist of one man and one woman. A faulty departure point.
With so much judgement from parents and family, homosexual couples are often forced to resolve their issues alone. It’s hard to seek advice outside of the relationship. It’s hard for many to understand how one woman can beat another up if they’re in an intimate relationship. Or how, if one is to be considered a man, why he doesn’t fight back if when his lover raises his hand.
There is shame. There is fear. There is doubt. There is guilt. There is silence.
Abused partners in same-sex couples are often unsure of what legal protection they are entitled to. The nature of the relationship and homosexuality being condemned in many countries makes it hard to seek help. Society adds insult to injury when God’s judgement and other religious arguments are brought into the conversation. Abused partners in relationships are further stigmatised on a community-level based on the negative attitudes directed at homosexuals.
Violence in a relationship doesn’t discriminate. Domestic disputes often happen behind closed doors. Being too acquainted with the “It’s okay, they will change” mentality is compounded by the abused partner feeling that they have no one to speak to. And often it’s not okay. For some of the abused their silence has cost them their lives – left their lives irrevocably changed.
Another unseen face of domestic violence is where both parties are under the influence. Here, arguments often turn into physical fights. In the article Why the Gay and Transgender Population Experiences Higher Rates of Substance Use the author states: Although data on the rates of substance abuse in gay and transgender populations are sparse, it is estimated that between 20 percent to 30 percent of gay and transgender people abuse substances, compared to about nine percent of the general population…The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principle driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges.
HIV can also be an issue, where couples fight over the disclosure of their status and the risk of infection. HIV is especially prevalent in homosexual men as the nature of their engagement put them at a higher risk to contract the virus. In cases where one partner finds out they have been infected by the other, this violence has led to committing suicide or even murder.
Staying with someone because they threaten to commit suicide is psychologically damaging. Some LGBT people find that the level of finance makes a relationship, and that if they aren’t being financially supported, they will leave. This borders on being transactional if sex is given and a payment is expected, and can also be a root cause for violence in a relationship.
There are a number of reasons why LGBT domestic violence concerns are not met. These include the myth that violence doesn’t exist in LGBT couples, the high rates of stigma and discrimination, the fear that bringing up the issue will result in losing social standing, the lack of adequate safe houses for abused people and because of the pride of the patriarchy. These are issues that need to be addressed in society to help stop the problem and start helping those who are affected.
Many in these situations are paralysed into fear – doing nothing seems like the only viable option. Putting the correct systems of support in place is not always easy in communities but it’s absolutely imperative. Abuse is not an LGBT+ issue alone. Since there are systems for straight people, and with equal rights for all enshrined in the laws of the land, access to these systems in a helpful and safe environment should be made equally available for the LGBT+ community as well.