Well-being

MYTHS OF LESBIAN DOMESTIC AND INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE

MYTH: Only heterosexual women get battered. Women never batter.
REALITY: Such myths ignore and deny the realities of same-sex relationships. Women can be and are batterers. Domestic violence is fundamentally a power issue. Even when two people are of the same sex, power differences exist and can be abused.

MYTH: It really isn’t violence when a lesbian couple fights. It’s just a lover’s quarrel, a fair fight between equals.
REALITY: This is based on the false assumption that two people of the same sex have no power differences. It also ignores that fact that in domestic violence relationships, it is the choice of one partner to take advantage of her power in abusive ways. There is nothing ‘fair’ about being knocked against a wall, being threatened, or enduring endless criticism from an angry lover. Dismissing domestic violence as ‘just a lover’s quarrel’ trivializes and excuses violence that is just as real, and dangerous, as any in a heterosexual relationship.

MYTH: The batterer is always bigger, stronger, and more ‘butch’. Victims will always be smaller, weaker, and more feminine. REALITY: Experience with heterosexual battering and attitudes about traditional sex roles lead many to fall into stereotypes of how batterers and victims, respectively, should look and act. Unfortunately, such stereotypes are of little actual use in helping us to identify who the batterer is in a lesbian relationship. A person who is small, but prone to violence and rage can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger, and non-violent. Size, weight, ‘masculinity’, ‘femininity’ or any other physical attribute or role is not a good indicator of whether a person will be a victim or a batterer. A batterer does not need to be tall and broad shouldered to use a weapon against you, to smash your belongings, to cut up your clothing, or tell everyone at work that you really are a lesbian.

MYTH: The law does not and will not protect victims of same sex domestic violence.
REALITY: The Domestic Violence Act (Act 116) was introduced in 1998 with the aim of affording women protection from domestic violence by creating obligations on law enforcement bodies to protect women (victims) as far as is possible. The Act sets out a broad range of behaviours that constitute domestic violence; including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, stalking, intimidation, harassment, malicious damage to property, unauthorized access to the complainant’s property, as well as other forms of controlling behaviour which may cause harm to the safety, health or well being of the complainant. The Act also extends the notion of ‘domestic relationship’, affording to protection to married couples; same-sex relationships; couples who are (or were) in a dating, engagement or customary relationship, including an actual or perceived relationship; any person in an intimate relationship; parents of a child; and people who do or have recently shared a residence.(Dissel & Ngubeni, CSVR, Giving Women their Voice: Domestic Violence and Restorative Justice in South Africa, 2003).

MYTH: It is easier for lesbian victims of domestic violence to leave the abusive relationship than it is for heterosexual battered women who are married.
REALITY: Same-sex couples are as intertwined and involved in each other’s lives as are heterosexual couples. There is no evidence that the absence of children makes leaving a violent partner easier, and most same-sex couples have children. The invisibility and relatively limited supports available to victims of same-sex domestic violence may compound barriers to leaving. Many lesbian women lack support from their families and communities, and may not be able to rely on them for help. Victims may also be convinced by the batterer that potential helpers will be homophobic and unhelpful. (Adapted from http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/p-samesex.htm)

MYTH: Alcohol and drug abuse causes domestic violence.
REALITY:Drugs and alcohol can aggravate (make worse) abusive behaviour, but in and of themselves do not cause domestic violence. Abuse can happen with or without the use of alcohol and drugs.