Myths & Realities about LGBTQ Domestic Abuse

Myth: Violence in same-sex relationships is mutual, a fair fight between equals
Abuse is a systematic pattern of behavior by one person in a relationship to gain power and control over their partner. In some circumstances the abuser may physically abuse their partner, and the partner may defend themselves. However, this should not be confused as a mutual fight, but as self-defense against a violent attack.  When in a relationship, it is not acceptable to fear your partner – this is abuse, whether the person attacked is able to defend themselves or not.  This myth also fails to acknowledge the importance of emotional abuse, which is used to control the abused partner and can often cause as much, or more, harm as physical or sexual abuse.

Myth: Abusers are always physically bigger or stronger than their partner
Abuse is not about physical strength but is about one person abusing their power in a relationship. This can be emotional power, through controlling everything – for example, what clothes the abused partner wears, who they socialize with, when and where they go out, threats to ‘out’ their partner to friends/family/work colleagues etc.

This power does not come from physical strength but from manipulative controlling behavior.  As the majority of abuse within heterosexual relationships is experienced by women from their male partners, a generalized view has developed of the physical attributes of the abused and the abuser. However, this is not helpful in LGBTQ relationships when trying to identify who is being abused.

Myth: Drugs and/or alcohol make the abuser violent
Some abusers will only abuse their partners when they have been drinking or when they have been taking drugs. However, some abusers only do it when they are sober, whereas others do it drunk, on drugs and when sober. Drink and/or drugs can provide an easy excuse, but tend to be more of a trigger than a root cause of violence.

An abusive partner will often try to minimize the violence or deny responsibility for it. Blaming drugs or alcohol may be one way of achieving this.

Myth: The abuse can’t be that bad, otherwise they’d just leave
  People stay with their abusive partners for many reasons, but not because it ‘isn’t that bad’. For LGBTQ people, there are some specific circumstances that make it difficult for them to leave an abuser.
LGBTQ people may be isolated from family because of discrimination in relation to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  For example an LGBTQ person may not come out to their family or friends for fear of being rejected and/or facing discrimination, at the same time this fear may be a reality for many LGBTQ people. As a result LGBTQ people may not have the means to draw on family support, even at the beginning of a relationship.

LGBTQ people may be reluctant to turn to mainstream services because of fears of homophobia or of being ‘outed’. They may feel the abuse is their fault or feel fearful of leaving because the abuser has threatened to find them and harm them or their family, or ‘out’ them if they do leave. Also, because domestic abuse is often seen as something which heterosexual women experience, some LGBTQ people may not actually realize that what they are experiencing is abuse.
Myth: Transgender people wouldn’t get hurt if they didn’t try to act like something they’re not
Just like being lesbian, gay or bisexual, being transgender is not a choice, and people are not ‘acting’ like something they are not. Abusers will use any excuse to justify their behavior. Ultimately, abuse is about an abusive person exercising power and control over their partner and as part of this cycle blaming their partner for their own abusive behavior.  The term transgender includes a variety of gender identities. *Borrowed from*
Myth: Abuse isn’t experienced by that many LGBTQ people
Recent research suggests that approximately 1 in 4 LGBTQ people will experience partner abuse at some point in their lives.

Myth: The law can’t help LGBTQ people who are experiencing abuse
In short, the law can and should.  LGBTQ people have the same rights and protection from abuse as anyone else.

Myth: Partner violence is a heterosexual women's issue
The dynamics of partner violence include the issue of exertion of power between intimate partners regardless of gender, because men or women can be the abusers or the victims (Island & Letellier, 1991; Lundy, 1993). It is estimated that 25-35% of heterosexual intimate partners experience battering. Domestic violence occurs at the same or greater frequency in gay and lesbian communities as in the heterosexual community (Baum & Moore, 2003; Coker, Smith, Bethea, King, & McKeown, 2000; Family Violence Prevention Fund [FVPF], 2004; Fortunata & Kohn, 2003; Island & Letellier, 1991). Although heterosexual men perpetrate most intimate partner crimes against women (85%), gay and lesbian intimate partners are victims of IPV as well (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Historically, the perception of domestic violence involves a male assault upon a female. Therefore, intimate partner violence (IPV) between gay or lesbian partners is likely to be viewed as mutual battering or combat (Lundy, 1993).

It is estimated that 50,000-100,000 lesbians and as many as 500,000 gay men are victims of intimate partner battering each year (Murphy, 1995). It is more difficult to assess the extent of intimate partner violence in sexual minority groups. Rather than report abuse or seek help because of fear of discrimination related to their sexual orientation, victims of same-sex intimate partner violence prefer to remain in the closet (West, 2004). There are no official prevalence statistics regarding same-sex intimate partner violence due to lack of recognition of domestic violence issues in the gay and lesbian population and flawed data collection methods (Tjaden, Thoennes, & Allison, 1999). Consequently, available statistics are either inaccurate, underestimated, or both (Baum & Moore, 2004).