MYTH: Only heterosexual women get battered. Women cannot be abusers.
TRUTH: Domestic violence in lesbian couples is a serious problem. Lesbian relationships can be just as physically violent as male/female partnerships. Until recently this problem has been completely discounted by scholars and media.

MYTH: Domestic violence is more common in heterosexual relationships than it is in lesbian relationships.
TRUTH: Many issues involved indicate that incidence of domestic violence in gay and lesbian couples is probably at least as high as in heterosexual couples, if not higher. Issues such as poorer resources, homophobia, and invisibility make identification and treatment of lesbian domestic violence difficult.

MYTH: It isn't really violence when a same-sex couple fights because women in relationships have equal power. It is just a lovers’ quarrel.
TRUTH: Lesbian relationships involving domestic violence are NOT about two women "mutually fighting" or having a lovers’ quarrel. Domestic violence is about power and control; the abuser's goal is to dominate and render the victim powerless.

MYTH: The batterer will always be butch, bigger and stronger. The victim will always be femme, smaller and weaker.
TRUTH: The misconceptions we hold of male/female battering relationships are typically carried over when we attempt to evaluate a lesbian relationship for domestic violence. It is a mistake to assume that all lesbian relationships are based on "femme and butch" pairings, or that an abusive lesbian must be "the masculine one". Just as male batterers do not have to be physically bigger than their female partners in order to abuse, and just like women can sometimes abuse their male partners, lesbian batterers are not necessarily bigger. Nor are they necessarily more economically independent or part of a more privileged socio-economic class than the partner they abuse.

MYTHS: (1) People who are abusive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not responsible for their actions. (2) Lesbian domestic violence has increased as a result of alcoholism and drug abuse.
TRUTH: Women with a history of abuse or witnessing abuse, low self-esteem, assertiveness deficits, poor communication skills, over-attachment in the relationship, a poorly defined sense of masculinity or hyper-masculinity, isolation from friends and family and/or stress are more prone to engage in domestic violence. Additionally, large power or status differences between partners may lead to violence (i.e., a partner with greater power may be uncomfortable making all of the decisions; a female not accustomed to being in the less powerful position, having less power in decision making, or making less money than her spouse may not know how to handle, cope with, or change this). It’s dangerous to simply blame the behavior on alcohol and drugs although violence is more likely to occur if one partner (or both partners) is dependent on a substance.

MYTH: Lesbian domestic violence is sexual behavior, a version of sadomasochism. The victim actually likes it.
TRUTH: Again, domestic violence is about power and control. It does not fit into the category of consensual sexual activity.

MYTH: The law does not and will not protect victims of lesbian domestic violence.
TRUTH: The women’s domestic violence movement has been active in advocating for a more interventionist and educated police approach to domestic violence. The police are now encouraged to treat domestic violence as a crime rather than a ‘relationship issue’. It is not impossible to find police support in many cities, especially cities with a large homosexual population.

MYTH: Lesbian victims exaggerate the violence that happens to them. If it were really that bad, they could and would just leave. Additionally, it is easier for abused lesbians to leave the abuser than it is for heterosexual battered women.
TRUTH: There are many factors involved in a victim’s ability to define their relationship as abusive and/or leave a battering relationship. In these relationships, there is typically a cycle of behavior that includes periods of abuse as well as periods of love and calm that can lead to confusion about whether the abusive partner is really, in fact, abusive. There are also issues of financial dependency, a lack of resources (e.g., somewhere else to live), shame, and fear of retaliation for leaving. The victim must first deal with some or all of these issues in order to break free from the relationship. In a lesbian relationship there are additional issues that must be faced like manipulation on the part of the abuser who may threaten to "out" her partner if she tries to get help or to flee. Outing is a serious issue in a society that continues to deny lesbians full rights. A lesbian who is outed to her employers may lose her job. Being outed to friends or family may cause the loss of relationships to people who have been important in her life. The fear of losing her children by court order can also keep an abused lesbian in an unsafe relationship.

MYTH: Victims often provoke the violence done to them. They are getting what they deserve.
TRUTH: Domestic violence is pervasive in this society and it’s easier for some to blame the abused woman than to address, and remedy, the social problem. Victims do not typically provoke the violence. Other social factors (see above) contribute to and/or maintain the violence.

MYTH: Domestic violence primarily occurs among lesbians who hang out at bars, are poor or are people of color.
TRUTH: As is true among heterosexual couples, domestic violence is not confined to a particular segment of the population. It crosses all age, race and class barriers.

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