Leaving a Second Closet:
Outing Partner Violence in Same-Sex Couples

Reviewed by
Suzana Rose, Ph.D.

from an article of the same title by:
Carolyn M. West

Jana L. Jasinski & Linda M. Williams (Eds.), Partner Violence: A comprehensive review of 20 years of research (pp. 163-183). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998

To review research related to lesbian and gay partner violence in the following areas: prevalence, unique types of violence, facilitators (correlates) of violence, and implications for research, assessment, treatment and policy.

For lesbians, prevalence estimates range from 17% of lesbians reporting "adult abuse" by a female partner at least once to 50% indicating abuse from at least one partner when questions included psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. About 18% to 44% of gay men report having been the victim of partner abuse based on two studies with small samples. Prevalence for lesbians appears to be similar to that for gay male and heterosexual couples in the few studies that have compared different types of couples.

Unique Types of Lesbian and Gay Partner Violence

HOMOPHOBIC CONTROL: When the abusive partner threatens to "out" the victim to friends, family, or employer, etc.


HIV STATUS: When an HIV-positive batterer threatens to infect the partner, or when the partner of an HIV-positive victim threatens to withhold medical care or to "out" the victim's HIV status to employer or family.

MUTUAL BATTERING: When the abuser claims the abuse was mutual, knowing police are more likely to make a mutual arrest in cases of same-sex domestic violence.

Facilitators/Correlates of Violence

INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA refers to negative feelings towards one's own homosexuality. Its effect on lesbian and gay partner violence has not been examined.

VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY OF ORIGIN findings are contradictory. There is some evidence that growing up in a violent family is related to abuse in intimate relationships.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE. In lesbian relationships, alcohol abuse was shown to be related to partner abuse and to greater physical injury to the victim.

DEPENDENCY & AUTONOMY CONFLICTS: No relationship between violence and interdependency of the couple have been found.

POWER IMBALANCE: Power in lesbian relationships is not allocated according to traditional roles, that is, the provider is not necessarily the abuser.

Implications of the evidence for research, therapeutic assessment, treatment, and policy are discussed.

Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.
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