Violence and abuse happen in LGBTQ relationships. It’s never a survivor’s fault.
- Even if they argued back or protected themselves from getting hurt
- Even if society or families don’t accept LGBTQ relationships
- Even if both partners are women and it is hard to believe women can be abusive
- Even if a partner says this is how a lesbian relationship is
- Even if a survivor is not sure if what happened could be called rape
- Even if the couple has been together a really long time
It’s STILL not a survivor’s fault.
No one deserves to be abused, teased, hurt, controlled, or isolated. Partner abuse includes many types of abuse and can happen on the first date, during or after a hookup or in a relationship of 20 years.
Lesbians face some unique challenges in identifying partner abuse in their own relationships and in the relationships of their friends. This page includes challenges and resources that specifically discuss partner abuse experienced by lesbians.
Lesbians aren’t abusive to each other. They wouldn’t allow that… would they?
Often women who identify as lesbians, particularly early in their process of identifying this way, may view an intimate relationship with a woman as very different from heterosexual relationships in terms of power. A woman might think there cannot be as much inequality since both people are women, and both have experienced oppression in the form of sexism. She may experience social pressure to participate in peer groups where both partners are invited and equality is assumed. She might believe that a female partner will be less aggressive or less confrontational than a male partner. This belief can silence women’s experiences of abuse in lesbian relationships in a few ways. First, the survivor may not name a pattern of power and control by the abusive partner as such–assuming this role can only be held by a man. Second, the myth can keep friends and family from seeing a woman’s behavior as controlling and exerting power over her female partner as abusive.
How can a lesbian be a survivor of partner abuse if she is a feminist? How could this be happening?
When a woman considers herself a feminist, particularly one active in women’s and anti-oppression issues, she may be ashamed to admit that she is in an abusive relationship. In fact, this can also appear as denial on the part of a woman who is the abuser in a relationship–she may be involved in helping, social service careers and fail to see her abusive actions. For the survivor though, finding herself in an abusive relationship can feel like a failure when she is actively battling injustice in her professional or volunteer roles.
How can women be abusive? Isn’t that something only men do?
While this challenge overlaps some with the idea of lesbian utopia, there are some specific challenges that arise in naming particular forms of abuse. For example, women typically are seen as verbal communicators, expected to show emotion and talk things out. As a result, verbal abuse maybe overlooked, and physical or sexual assault is seen as an anomaly. Society often interprets rape as penetrative sex initiated by a man and as something that a stranger perpetrates. This portrayal of rape makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for women to label sexual assault, abuse, or rape in lesbian relationships as such.