How Much Violence Exists in Same-Sex Relationships?
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.Martins Griffin: New York. 1997.
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 citizens 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;
of social disgrace;
3. Lack of faith in the police systems response;
4. To prevent the children from witnessing their fathers being apprehended by
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.
SUGGESTED RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE COURTS
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.
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 wifebeatingpeople must be made aware of the Courts
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
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
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