Living in a bubble of a stable, happy lesbian relationship, I found it hard to believe that Same-Sex Domestic Violence (SSDV) existed between lesbian couples. After all, as both partners in the relationship are female I foolishly imagined that this would eradicate domestic violence altogether. I thought that two females should be able to live in perfect harmony. Therefore, you can imagine my utter amazement when I started to stumble across facts that 25% of same-sex relationships suffer from domestic abuse; that's the same percentage as heterosexual couples.
Perhaps I owed my naivety to the fact that the whole lesbian and gay community shrouds itself in the myth that because we have same sex partners we do not have abusive relationships. I only have to look at the online accounts of real women who have experienced physical, or verbal, abuse to know that this is untrue. I think it's about time that we admit that SSDV does exist, if only to help those that are suffering.
SSDV - Removing the Blindfold
I think I was also blindfolded into imagining that domestic violence only took the form of physical or sexual abuse. Now I know, after researching the subject more thoroughly, that there are several forms of domestic abuse that need to be taken into consideration. Many, if not all of them, have one goal and that is that your partner, the abuser, wants to maintain control over you. I have summarized the main forms of SSDV below. Please read them carefully, especially if you believe that you may be a victim of SSDV but aren't sure that the way that your partner is acting, or treating you, is a form of domestic abuse.
- Physical abuse - where your partner physically hurts you. This could be kicking, punching, slapping, etc.
- Sexual abuse - where your partner forces you to have sex or take part in sexual acts with other people that you would not normally consent to.
- Emotional abuse - where your partner makes you feel afraid or continually puts you down with words. It may seem as though she is constantly trying to humiliate you.
- Social abuse - where your partner limits your contact with friends, family, and even any social groups. This can leave you with a complete feeling of isolation.
- Financial abuse - where your partner controls all of your finances against your will.
- Stalking / Harassment - where your partner / ex partner follows you, or harasses you, and won't leave you alone.
Is It Happening To You?
If you can relate to any of the forms of domestic abuse stated above then you are a victim of Same Sex Domestic Violence. Even if you have only been hit once, or your partner has only subjected you to emotional abuse once, you should still proceed with caution. Domestic abuse has a cyclical nature and once the abuser has lashed out, they will become a model partner for a while, but then something will trigger their behavior, tensions will rise and SSDV will take place again. I know that it's hard to make the recognition that your partner is an abuser; you have put all of your love and trust into this person and it's difficult to break away from that. It's easier to think that it will be fine and things will get better - but, in reality they probably won't. The sooner you make this realization the closer you are to getting help.
What Can You Do?
I can imagine that being the victim of SSDV - Same Sex Domestic Violence - can be very isolating, particularly if your partner has encouraged you to cut off ties with close friends, or you don't know any other lesbian, or gay people, that you can turn to for advice. The first thing to realize is that there are people out there willing to help you:
1. The police - many forms of domestic abuse are illegal and if your partner is being violent, or sexually abusive, then involve the police. At the end of the day it's only what she deserves. Don't be afraid that the police will be homophobic, or laugh in your face, as they should be trained to treat SSDV in the same way as heterosexual domestic violence. Some police forces have Gay and Lesbian liaison groups, with specifically trained personnel to guide you through such issues.
2. Lesbian domestic abuse help lines - even though they may be few (and far between) at present, help lines specifically for lesbian victims of domestic abuse do exist. They will be able to talk you through your options and help you to determine a course of action. Many of the staff at standard domestic abuse help lines have been trained how to deal with lesbian couples, so don't think that you have to search for an exclusively lesbian line. Choose whatever you feel comfortable with.
3. Domestic abuse shelters - If you really need to get out quickly then domestic abuse shelters will be able to help you, too. Choose one that is sensitive to LGBT (Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender) issues and you will be on the right road to ridding yourself of a violent and volatile relationship.
Don't blame yourself for things that have taken place. Don't belittle yourself any more than she has done already. Just remember that it's not your fault and that there are groups, associations, and people out there that will be willing and able to help. I suggest you pick up the phone right now.