Domestic Violence in Lesbian Relationships:
Findings of the Lesbian Relationships Research Project

Reviewed by Suzana Rose, Ph.D.
from an article of the same title by:

Teresa Scherzer

Published: Journal of Lesbian Studies, 1998, 2(1), 29-47


To determine the prevalence of emotional and physical abuse in lesbian relationships for lesbians in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lesbians were recruited through friendship networks and community locations. The 256 lesbians who participated were mostly between 31 and 40 years old and had some college education. About 44% were women of color.

Participants completed an 88-item survey assessing emotional and physical abuse, definitions of abuse, and help-seeking behavior in the current or most recent relationship using a modified Conflict Tactics Scale.


About 17% of lesbians reported physical abuse and 31% reported emotional abuse in their current or most recent relationship. Types of physical abuse named by more than 10% of participants included: disrupting other's eating or sleeping habits (31%), pushing or shoving (25%), driving recklessly to punish (24%), and slapping, kicking, hitting or biting (15%). Emotional abuse reported by more than 10% of lesbians included: being insulted (67%), having something thrown, smashed, hit or kicked (45%), being verbally put down in front of friends/relatives (32%), being put down in front of strangers (22%), and threatened suicide (14%). About 53% of participants had sought help for fights or disagreements, most often from counselors or friends but rarely from hotlines of domestic violence organizations. Some behaviors that participants identified as being abusive that were not part of the survey included: threatening to "out" the partner, theft of money and valuables, property destruction, and not allowing the partner time alone.

Meaning:  Lesbians are underserved by domestic violence agencies, even in the Bay Area where some services for lesbians are available. A wider range of abusive behaviors should be included when assessing lesbian domestic violence.

Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.

Feedback Join Us Site Map VAWPrevention Home
  National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center © Copyright 2000
(843) 792-2945/telephone       (843)  792-3388/fax