In the straight world the laws protecting victims from domestic violence is pretty much straight forward, but those laws become muddied when you try to apply them to homosexual relationships. The main reason why this is so is due to ignorance and the belief that domestic violence only occurs to women in straight relationships. For these reasons, similar problems are also being faced by men who are being abused by women.
Contrary to the popular belief that gay relationships are free from domestic violence, recent surveys and studies show that domestic violence is just as prevalent in gay relationships as it is in straight ones. The statistics show that 22 to 46 percent of lesbians have experienced abuse in a same-sex relationship and 25 percent of gay males in same-sex relationships have suffered abuse. These numbers may actually be significantly higher because people in the LGBT (Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender[ed]) community are more loath to come forward and report abuse to the authorities.
Domestic violence can take many forms and is not limited to battery. Abuse can also take the shape of emotional, sexual and psychological abuse. In many cases, the abuse can take place over the course of years, with the victim afraid to - or unable to - protect themselves from the abuser. In some cases, the victim cannot find the social services to deal with their particular problem. In other cases, the victim may be afraid of facing severe consequences that can only be found in gay relationships. Here are just a few fears holding victims back:
- Fear of becoming publicly "outed" or of becoming the center of community gossip
- Fear of coming into contact with homophobic law enforcement and service providers
- Fear of losing non-biological children to the abuser or a third party. In most states, the parental rights of a non-biological parent in a gay relationship are not recognized unless there are legal measures to protect them. Unfortunately, some states do not allow non-biological parents to seek legal protections such as second-parent adoption
- Fear of being rejected by a small, shared circle of friends in the LGBT (Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender[ed])community
In addition to combating their own fears, lesbian; gay; bisexual; and transgender[ed]) suffering abuse may confront an ignorant justice system and abuse programs that are unable to handle their unique situation. To make matters worse, Defense of Marriage Acts have given some states the right to not recognize a gay relationship at all. With no recognition of the relationship, no domestic abuse has taken place and victims cannot receive the help they need.
Domestic violence victims also face a hurdle when it comes to protecting themselves from the abuser legally. In at least three states same-sex couples cannot place a restraining or protective order against the abuser. Additionally, many cases of domestic violence in same-sex relationships cannot be prosecuted in family courts, but have to go through criminal courts - which have a different set of standards in recognizing and prosecuting the crime.
To reverse some of this inequality in the justice system, non-profit organizations and programs have begun to educate the public and law enforcement about the prevalence of this problem and the need to have services in place for LGBT(Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender[ed]) victims of abuse. But until they recognize that abuse is occurring, help may be put on hold.