Violence in Lesbian Relationships:
Discussion of Survey Findings and Practice Implications
Suzana Rose, Ph.D.
from an article of the same title by:
Gwat-Yong Lie & Sabrina-Gentlewarrier
Journal of Social Service Research, 1991,
To examine the incidence of domestic violence and help-seeking in lesbian
Lesbians attending the Michigan Women's Music Festival in 1985 were asked
to complete a survey at a workshop entitled "Lesbian Violence" and elsewhere
at the festival. Of the 1099 lesbian participants, most were white (87%)
and between 20 and 45 years of age.
Participants completed a checklist of the types of abuse they had ever
experienced or perpetrated on a female lover/partner.
About 45% indicated no partner abuse ever, and 55% had been in at least
one abusive relationship (25% had been survivors only; 26% had been both
survivors and perpetrators, and 4 % had been perpetrators only). Types
of abuse experienced included: physical abuse or combined physical, sexual,
and/or psychological abuse (32%); and verbal or emotional abuse only (18%).
Types of abuse perpetrated included: physical or a combination of physical,
sexual, and/or psychological (16%) and verbal or emotional abuse only
(15%). About half of the lesbians in both the survivor only and survivor-perpetrator
groups had sought help from the following sources listed from most frequently
to least frequently used: Counselling; support groups; self-help groups;
battered women's shelters.
Abuse was as prevalent among lesbian relationships studied here (55%)
as it was in heterosexual relationships (37 to 55%). Questions concerning
perpetrating abuse need to distinguish between actions taken in self-defense
and actions initiated by the aggressor. This point was not assessed here.
Findings are limited by the selective recruiting of participants. Those
solicited at a workshop on lesbian battering may have been more likely
than a more general sample of lesbians to have been in abusive relationship.
Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.