Domestic Violence and Same-Sex Couples


Most of what we hear about intimate partner violence refers to heterosexual women, but they are not the only ones who suffer from domestic violence. Statistics show that one out of three women and one out of four men will be subjected to intimate partner abuse in their lifetime. This statistic may assume that men and women are in heterosexual relationships. In order to look at domestic violence objectively, we must look beyond heterosexual orientation.

The presence of intimate partner violence in the non-heterosexual community is astonishing. While we recognize that men, of all sexual orientations, can be victims of abuse, this article focuses on non-heterosexual women.

image of two women holding hands to symbolize domestic violence in same sex couplesThe prevalence of intimate partner violence of heterosexual women is about 35%. When we look outside this demographic, the numbers are even more staggering. About 61% of bisexual women and 78% of non-monosexual women will suffer from domestic violence. These numbers are unbelievable but true. We know that domestic violence affects everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, but it is important to remember that domestic violence victims aren’t only heterosexual women abused by their male partners. Intimate partner violence affects everyone.

There are many similarities between heterosexual domestic violence and lesbian/bisexual intimate partner violence. In some lesbian relationships, one partner will take on a “butch” role, basically a stronger position. Some lesbians report that they fight back, so that both women are fighting. This sometimes happens in relationships regardless of sexual orientation. All survivors need support.

Communities offer a variety of support for all victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. However, LGBT people face certain barriers to seeking help that are unique to their sexual orientation. Some lesbian or bisexual victims hesitate to report abuse because they fear prejudicial treatment. Some local laws are still drafted with language that fails to protect both parties. Some battered women shelters will not welcome an openly lesbian or bisexual woman. Current legal definitions of domestic violence exclude same-sex couples. Seeking help may “out” the victim, risking rejection by those that they seek support. Additionally, some LGBT intimate partner violence victims hold low confidence that law enforcement officials will be sensitive to their case or able to effectively support them. The victims may avoid getting help because they don’t want to open themselves up for more abuse.

Whether heterosexual or LGBT, survivors have a range of resources in order to be safe, and to heal. Hotlines, such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline, provide a wealth of information, including access to legal, health, financial, and shelter resources, regardless of sexual orientation.

LGBT intimate partner violence survivors can also reach out to a local LGBT community center. Community centers offer mental health services, survivor groups, court-approved interventions, legal services, law enforcement advocacy, and prevention services for those at risk. Often, services are provided on a sliding scale or for no cost.

There is help and hope for all who are victimized by domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our sister organization, No Silence, No Violence and see how we can help.

If you are recovering from domestic violence, or are looking for ways to live better and love better, our coaching services can help. Please reach out today – you don’t have to do this alone.