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:
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.