Couple Assessment: Identifying and Intervening in Domestic Violence in Lesbian Relationships

Reviewed by
Suzana Rose, Ph.D.

from an article of the same title by:
Arlene Istar

Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 1996,
4(1), 93-106

To describe difficulties associated with the clash of three perspectives related to domestic violence among lesbians, including the feminist analysis of domestic violence, lesbian and gay affirmative therapy, and family systems theory.

Feminist analyses guiding the development of shelters often have resulted in social services that neglect lesbians; in addition, treatment of heterosexual women victims is based on the idea that the victim must be separated and protected from her male partner. Lesbian and gay affirmative therapy assumes that homosexual relations are normal and healthy; treatment focuses on life issues that lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients are facing. Family systems theory indicates that victims should be treated within the context of their family and community.

Difficulties Related to the Clash of Perspectives
Outside large urban areas, effective nonhomophobic interventions are not available for lesbians in social service agencies. Lesbian affirmative therapists have a dual role; they must intervene with both the lesbian couple and the unresponsive or hostile social service system. Couples counseling is advocated within family systems theory and opposed by feminist approaches; however, it may be the only way lesbian couples will receive help.

Several case examples are presented to show the benefit of couples' counseling in some cases of lesbian battering, particularly to determine perpetrator, victim, and mutual aggressor roles.

Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.

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