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
Violence and Victims, 1991, Vol. 6, No. 2, 121-135
To examine how many lesbians in current aggressive relationships also
reported aggression in past relationship with female partners, male partners,
and family members.
Six hundred surveys were distributed to lesbians in Arizona and 107 (29%)
completed and returned them. Participants were from 21-59 years of age,
with 50% being under 34 years old. Most were white (90%), middle class,
and described themselves as being a feminist (80%).
In the survey, participants were asked about their history of victimization
and use of aggression (sexual, verbal/emotional, and physical) and their
perceptions about whether their current or past relationships would be
described as abusive.
Family members and men: Many lesbians had witnessed or experienced
aggression by family members (56%) or by previous male partners (65%).
Past lesbian relationships: At least one aggressive act had occurred
in past lesbian relationships for 73% of participants. Of these, the most
common was verbal/emotional aggression (65%), followed by sexual (57%)
and physical (45%). However, only 51% perceived a past relationship as
Current lesbian relationships: About 25% reported some kind of
aggression. Of these, the most common was verbal/emotional aggression
(24%), followed by physical (12%) and sexual (9%). However, only 10% perceived
the current relationship as abusive. .Using aggression: About 33% reported
using aggression against a previous male partner; 68% said they had used
some kind of aggression (usually verbal/emotional) against a past female
partner; and 22% indicated initiating some form of aggression against
a current female partner.
History of aggression: Lesbians who were victims of aggression
by family members or by past male partners were more likely to report
aggression in relationships with female partner than lesbians who had
no history of family or male aggression.
Self-defense vs. mutual aggression: Aggression against male partners
was more often described as self-defense; aggression was more often mutual
with female partners.
Meaning: Having been either a target or a witness to aggression
increased the likelihood of aggression for women in lesbian relationships.
Mutual aggression was more common for lesbian relationships than past
heterosexual ones .
Reviewed by Suzanna Rose, Ph.D.