Intimate Violence in Lesbian Relationships:
Discussion of Survey Findings and Practice Implications

Reviewed by
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 being abusive.

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.

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