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Strategies for Battered Women
Strategies for Battered Women

Section 12
Violence in Same-Sex Relationships & Sources of Intervention

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

How Much Violence Exists in Same-Sex Relationships?
Lesbian Partner Violence. Estimates of partner violence in lesbian relationships have varied widely. In a survey of lesbian sexual practices, Loulan (1987) found that 17% of 1,566 lesbians surveyed had experienced “adult abuse” by a female partner. Substantial rates of partner violence were discovered by other researchers as well. Approximately one third of 284 lesbians surveyed by Lockhart, White, Causby, and Isaac (1994) reported being physically abused by partners, as measured by the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS; Straus, 1979); and Coleman (1990) categorized 46% of 90 lesbian couples she interviewed as violent. Higher percentages of battering were reported when women were queried about violence in previous relationships in comparison with current partnerships. Using a sample of 36 lesbian undergraduates, Bologna, Waterman, and Dawson (1987) found that 40% were victims in their current or most recent relationships and that 64% were victimized by previous partners. Respondents also reported substantial rates of inflicting physical aggression in current (54%) and past (56%) relationships as measured by the CTS. Bologna et al.’s results should be interpreted with caution, however. Not only are these findings based on a small sample, but the researchers also asked respondents to participate in a study on “conflict resolution tactics,” a method of solicitation that might have attracted more respondents who were willing to reveal partner violence.
When the definition of aggression was broadened to include psychological and sexual abuse in addition to physical violence, even more respondents reported victimization. In a sample of 1,099 lesbians surveyed at a music festival, one half of the respondents reported a combination of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse (Lie & Gentlewarrier, 1991). Similarly, in a sample of lesbians surveyed through the mailing lists of lesbian organizations in Arizona, re­searchers found that, when all forms of aggression were considered, 50% were victimized (Lie, Schilit, Bush, Montagne, & Reyes, 1991; Schilit, Lie, Bush, Montagne, & Reyes, 1991).

Gay Partner Violence. Few researchers have attempted to estimate the amount of gay male partner violence. Using a very small sample of 34 gay male undergraduates, Bologna and colleagues (1987) found that 18% were victims and 14% were perpetrators of violence in their current relationships. An even higher percentage of respondents sustained (44%) or inflicted (25%) violence in previous relationships.

In the absence of reliable prevalence studies, other means have been used to approximate the number of violent gay male partnerships. For example, researchers at the Seattle Counseling Service for Sexual Minorities predicted that 30,000 gay men have been battered in that city alone (Farley, 1992). Island and Letellier (1991) believe that 500,000 gay males are battered annually; they based their estimate on a 10% to 20% rate of battering among the 9.5 million adult gay males who are believed to be in intimate relationships (64%). Given the difficulties of calculating the number of gay relationships and the amount of partner violence experienced by couples regardless of sexual orientation, there is no way of knowing the accuracy of these estimates.
- Stop Domestic Violence. Brown, Lou, Francois Dubau, & Merritt McKeon. St.Martin’s Griffin: New York. 1997.

Sources of Intervention for Battered Women
All of the women interviewed indicated that their children were affected in some negative way by the beatings (Fig. 10). About 45% of the assaults on the women were accompanied by similar physical assaults on at least one child in the household. The remaining 55% were situations in which the children were not assaulted, but were witness to the attack on their mothers. Ninety-five percent of the victim/mothers did not report their husband to the authorities for child abuse.

Sources of Help
Fear of reprisals and counter charges by the husband against the wife were reasons most often given by the women for failure to lodge complaints. However, many attempted to secure help for themselves from the police, the Family Court, family, friends, or marriage counselors. The following histograms demonstrate the percentage of women who sought the above kinds of intervention.

Ninety percent of the 2/3 of the population seeking police help reported that the police clearly avoided arrest and did not inform the victims of the citizen’s arrest alternative, again confirming existing studies. The remaining 1/3 who did not summon help from the police failed to do so for the following reasons, in descending order of frequency:

1. Fear of reprisals from husband on themselves or next of kin;
2. Fear of social disgrace;
3. Lack of faith in the police system’s response;
4. To prevent the children from witnessing their fathers being apprehended by the police.

Family Court
In New York, the Family Court System can afford help in the form of an Order of Protection. Most of the women who were able to secure an Order of Protection felt it really did not offer the protection they so badly needed. The Order is issued for a limited time, usually for up to one year, and cannot be renewed. Upon expiration, the woman must go down to the Court again and start from the beginning. She may be denied another Order because her husband may not have violated the terms of the original Order (leaving the Court to conclude that the husband has spontaneously rehabilitated himself). What the Court system fails to recognize is that in some cases, the very Order of Protection successfully deters those husbands who have respect for authority from committing further violence. Paradoxically, the Court will deny a request for a subsequent Order without reviewing the efficacy argument.

In no case when the husband has clearly violated the terms specified, was he adequately reprimanded by the Court. Warrants for arrest are very infrequently issued for violations. Most women indicated that the system offered no real protection. In many cases, women who went to the Court desperate for help were diverted from the Court by the Department of Probation, whose functions are tied to post-adjudicatory services. Currently, the Department has been involved in pre-adjudicatory services as they relate to Family Court, commonly referred to as Intake and Preliminary Probation Procedures. Expansion of the pre-adjudicatory services in the late 1960s and early 1970s provided for expansion programming which focuses upon the development of alternatives to judicial processing of individuals who do not present a serious threat to others. It is an opportunity, and not a solution which enables probation to cooperate with community agencies in obtaining and/or reallocating resources to meet needs of those diverted.

Forty-five percent of the victims responding to the questions concerning the attitudes of the Family Court Probation Department felt that the staff was helpful; 36% indicated antagonism; and 13% indicated a definite hostility. Thus, some suggestions for improving the Family Court System are necessary.


1. Increase the number of legal options available to the victim by giving the victim the authority to transfer the case from the Family Court to Criminal Court. Rarely employed, transfer is left totally to the discretion of the justice presiding.

2. Mandate that the husband secure professional help, either through binding arbitration or family counseling.

3. Review progress periodically.

4. Mandate arbitration, counseling, or treatment as an alternative to fines, imprisonment, or an order out of the home.

5. Disseminate information on Court procedure for police and social agencies. Often, expectations based on misinformation are unrealistic. People then demand what the Court cannot possibly deliver. Frustrations mount and valuable time is wasted. The Court system is not a panacea for wifebeating—people must be made aware of the Court’s functions in order to make the best possible use of it. The Family Court, historically, is intent on reconciliation and the preservation of the family unit. What the court fails to recognize is the dissolution of the family unit in the presence of wifebeating.

6. Designate the battered wife as a probation officer of the court in those cases when a wife does not want a divorce, legal separation, or her husband jailed. The wife, then, would act as an officer of the court. Assault on her would also be an assault upon an officer of the court. Violation of the probation, reported by the wife/ probation officer reported to the judge, would insure the immediate arrest of the husband by the police. Penalties, in terms of jail sentences, might be served on weekends or at night, thus enabling the husband to continue to work and support the family. In conjunction with the appointment of the wife as a probation officer, mandatory counseling could be ordered; failure to attend would result in revocation of probation. Such an innovative approach has been in operation since the spring of 1976 by Judge Jack F. Crawford, City Court Judge in Hammond, Indiana.
- Battered Women. Roy, Maria. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company: New York. 1997.

What did 90% of the two thirds of the population seeking police help report?
To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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