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Domestic Violence  
 
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Historically, violence, abuse, and battering within families have been hidden issues. They were brought into the public and clinical domain through the advocacy efforts of feminists in the 1960s. Heterosexual battered women and female rape survivors were a focus of the early women's liberation movement's critique of patriarchy.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as victims of bias-related violence, began to receive media attention in the 1970s. However, it was not until the 1980s, following the growth of lesbian and gay activism, that attention to violence directed at, and within, the glbtq community came to the attention of domestic violence advocates.

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Violence against Glbtq People

Violence against glbtq people includes sexual assault, child abuse, bias-related violence, and domestic violence. The word domestic violence is often used to subsume all kinds of violence within the home, including sexual assault in intimate relationships, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. It is a prevalent, although under-recognized, problem in the glbtq community.

It is thought that the incidence of domestic violence in glbtq families mirrors that of heterosexual families, which has been estimated to affect 25 to 30% of families. However, it is extremely difficult to gather accurate statistics on glbtq domestic violence, in part because the majority of glbtq people remain closeted and are unlikely to participate in research.

Moreover, the research that has been conducted tends to focus on either lesbians or gay men, either ignoring bisexual people or subsuming them under other categories. and people have been the focus of very few studies of abuse or violence in domestic situations. It is, however, known that transpeople experience vicious physical violence from stranger assault, and preliminary research shows that this abuse is also experienced within families.

Additionally, because of the prevalence of , glbtq people rarely seek aid from social services programs for domestic violence, which in any case are not geared towards the unique needs of glbtq survivors of battering. Historically, the treatment model for examining domestic violence has employed a gendered paradigm, which assumes that men are the perpetrators and women the victims of domestic violence. Although this is often the case in heterosexual couples, this model does not give treatment providers a way to recognize abuse among same-sex couples.

Shelters for battered women will rarely admit a battered man or transgender person. Conversely, because staff-members are poorly trained in understanding the dynamics of same-sex abuse, female batterers are sometimes admitted to shelters. Moreover, outside large metropolitan areas, survivors of violence have few options for shelter, treatment, or advocacy. Perpetrators have even fewer services to assist them in breaking out of abusive patterns, which means that they may continue to find other victims to abuse.

Deconstructing Myths

Examining same-sex domestic violence requires deconstructing some cherished ideas of lesbian and gay male relationships. Glbtq people, as well as outsiders, often assume that lesbian and gay relationship are always built on "equality." In addition, it is often assumed that women are incapable of acting violently towards one another, and even victims of violence sometimes find it hard to admit that another woman is acting violently towards them.

When gay men engage in domestic violence it is often minimized, with friends as well as law enforcement officials treating the violence between men as if it is just "boys being boys." Gay men sometimes feel shame at being the victim of violence, since it reinforces society's stereotype of gay men as not "real men." Sometimes it is assumed that domestic violence happens only to glbtq people who frequent bars, or who are into butch/femme relationships, or who participate in S/M activities. These myths only serve to further marginalize glbtq people who are victims of abuse. Domestic violence can take place in all relationships, regardless of class, lifestyle, or sexual and gender expressions.

Power and Control

Domestic violence is essentially about power and control in relationships. By definition, mutual battering does not exist. Lenore Walker first promulgated the theory of domestic violence that is most commonly used in understanding abuse in relationships. Walker found that domestic abuse is more than an isolated act of violence; it includes a circular pattern of power and control. She discovered that there is commonly a period of tension that precedes the violence, and a period of forgiveness that follows it; this 3-part cycle (tension, violence incident, and the "honeymoon phase") solidifies the power and control within the relationship.

Domestic violence is more likely to occur in couples who have power imbalances, even when sex is not the primary difference between couples. There are numerous power issues that can affect glbtq couples, including differences in financial or occupational status; differences in class, race, or ethnicity; differences in disability or HIV status; and variables such as age and legal relationship to children.

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