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									Domestic abuse in same sex
       Professor Marianne Hester

 ( with Catherine Donovan & Jonathan Holmes – Sunderland,
           Melanie McCarry & Eldin Fahmy – Bristol)

                  Economic & Social Research Council,
                      Award No. RES-000-23-0650
             The study
most detailed UK research on same sex
domestic abuse to date
first study in the UK comparing domestic
abuse in same sex and heterosexual
Fieldwork carried out between January
2005 and March 2006

  Can Gender and Power model explain same sex
  domestic violence?

What about:
 Power and control
 Heterosexual male paradigm – physical violence
 Lack of ‘gender’ in same sex relationships
Questions about victims/survivors and
  perpetrators of domestic violence:

• Domestic violence: uni-directional or bi-

• ‘Patriarchal/ intimate terrorism’ or ‘situational/
  common couple violence’ (Johnson 1995, 2006)
              The research
1. A UK-wide survey of domestic abuse in same
   sex relationships   (800 responses, 746
   usable questionnaires).

2. Five focus groups with lesbians, gay men and
   heterosexual women and men of different ages
   and ethnicities (21 individuals).

3. Semi-structured interviews with 67 individuals
   (41 lesbian/gay/queer, 3 bisexual, and 23
       The questionnaire
British Crime Survey – heteronormative
(until now)
US same sex surveys – beyond
Experiences of emotional, physical and
sexual abuse; impact/context; violence to
 The questionnaire sample
Nearly two thirds women (451) and a third
men (280).
Women were most likely to identify as
‘lesbian’ . Men mainly identified as ‘gay
Bisexuals and queers mostly women, and
The questionnaire sample - age
     ranged from under 16 to late 60s
         - most in their 20s & 30s





                            under 16-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69
                                            Graph 2: Age of respondents
 The questionnaire sample
Ethnicity as UK population
More than 1 in 10 had a disability
Income slightly higher than UK
   population – and large gender
1 in 5 women parented children,
   and 1 in 15 men
       Current relationship
Two-thirds were in a relationship

Men had shorter relationships, but also 2-5
years and more than 20 years.
Women had longer relationships
The Interviews
Total of 67 individuals of which (44 lgbq, 23 heterosexual):
  19 lesbians
  19 gay men
  3 bisexuals
  3 queer

  14 heterosexual women
  9 heterosexual men

Similar demographics to survey
Experiences of
domestic abuse
           When is it abuse?
Difficulty naming experiences as abuse
Easier to call physical violence domestic abuse

….I do think it was quite a controlling relationship, yeah.
And, I did think, ‘well actually, is this really going to
count’… because it’s probably not on the greatest scale
of long term, abusive, violent behaviour…. Uhm but it
does fall into it, I think. (Kay)

Some answered ‘no’ in questionnaire, and ‘yes’ in later
Experiences of domestic abuse
            NOT PREVALENCE
In the survey 40.1% women & 35.2% men said
they had experienced same sex domestic abuse

Even more had experienced at least one form of
abusive behaviour

CONCLUSION – domestic an issue for
considerable number of people in LGBT
         British Crime Survey data

In last 12 months (one or more incidents): heterosexual men 4%, heterosexual
women 6%, gay/ bisexual men 9%, lesbian/ bisexual women17%
Experiences of domestic abuse

of those respondents experiencing a range of
abuse most (86%) are in uni-directional and not
bi-directional abusive relationships.

of those respondents experiencing one form of
abuse most (64%) are again in uni-directional
and not in bi-directional abusive relationships

For those identifying as experiencing domestic
abuse, most are experiencing uni-directional
    Emotional abuse – ‘top ten’
Isolated from friends (under 35)
regularly insulted/put down (low income)
frightened by things your partner says/does (low
education, low income)
told what to do/who to see (low education)
isolated from relatives (low education)
made to do most housework
your spending controlled (gay men, under 35, low
your age used against you (under 35)
malicious/pestering phone calls (low education)
your education used against you
Physical abuse – ‘top ten’ (survey)
slapped/pushed/shoved (under 35, low education)
physically threatened (gay men, low education)
kicked/punched (gay men, under 35, low education)
restrained/held down/tied up
stalked/followed by partner (under 35, low education, low
beaten up
choked/strangled/suffocated (under 35)
locked out of house/room by partner (low education)
hit with an object/weapon (under 35)
Bitten (under 35, low income)
   Sexual abuse – ‘top seven’
had sex for sake of peace
touched in way that caused fear/alarm/distress
(low income)
forced into sexual activity (gay men)
hurt during sex (gay men, under 35, low income)
'safe' words/boundaries disrespected (gay men,
under 35, low income)
sexually assaulted/abused (under 35, low
refused your request for safer sex (gay men)
          Impact of abuse
Similar for women & men… except:
      Emotional abuse impact

 for women: abuse made them work
 harder so as ‘to make their partner happy’
 or in order ‘to stop making mistakes’, and/
 or had impact on their children or their
 relationship with their children
 For men: made them ‘feel loved/wanted’
     Physical abuse impact

Women: as with emotional abuse

But yeah I did love her. … I don’t know. I
think part of me wanted to help her, um,
and I thought loving her would fix
everything. (Sarah)
     Sexual abuse impact

Women: some feared for their lives
           Similarities between
            women and men
First same sex relationships risk for domestic abuse

Sexuality as tool of control: denigrating the scene;
abusive partner not wanting to be out

Post separation abuse

Abusive partner controlling activities/relationships of

Abusive partner undermining victim/survivor sense of

Use of other aspects:
victim may be taller, larger, more
educated, higher social class
e.g. of ‘inverse oppression’
 Because, actually, if two strangers saw me and
 Marnie together, not knowing either of us or
 anything about either of us, I think they would
 probably assume that I was the one with the
 power in the relationship. Because I am
 physically bigger than her. I probably come
 across verbally more confident than her,
 probably come across more educated than her.
 (pause) … But I think anybody who spent a
 weekend with us would quickly realise where the
 power lay in that relationship
Men reported experiencing more physical
abuse and especially more sexual abuse;

Women reported more emotional abuse
and emotionally more coercive sexual
 lesbians more likely to live with abusive
partner and more likely to experience
longer abusive relationship

Men less likely to live with abusive partner
and more likely to experience shorter
abusive relationship
Abusive men: typically aggressively

Abusive women: typically desperately
Norms of femininity linked to experiences of
abusive female same sex relationships
Femininity linked with expectations/experiences of:
  emotional articulateness

  emotional manipulation

  commitment expressed through living together
  (lesbian joke what do lesbians do on the second
  date? Move in)

  commitment expressed through wanting to make
  things better, help partner, stay through ‘bad
Norms of masculinity linked to experiences
of males in abusive same sex relationships
Masculinity linked with expectations/experiences of:

  Lack of commitment expressed through not living

  Lack of commitment expressed through willingness to
  leave earlier when things go wrong

  Physical aggression

  Physical sexual agression
one in five did not seek help from anyone
most used ‘informal’ or ‘private’ means rather
than voluntary of statutory sector services
More than half contacted friends – especially
about a third used counsellors or therapists
GPs or colleagues also used – especially by
About one in ten contacted the police – more
Help sought from     Self-      Self-defined
                     defined    domestic abuse
                     domestic   by gender
                     abuse –    Women Men %
                     all %         %
Your friends            57.9      60.4     52.2
Counsellor/therapist    32.6      33.7     30.4
Your relatives          25.2      24.3     27.2
GP                      13.8      11.8     17.4
Lesbian or gay          13.5      11.8     16.3
Someone at work         11.9     11.2    13.0
Police                   9.0      7.1    10.9
      Summary of Findings
Domestic abuse is a sizeable problem in same sex

Domestic abuse is experienced in very similar ways in
lesbian and gay relationships.

Men were more likely to experience sexual abuse

Differences in experiences reflected gender norms

As with surveys of heterosexual communities, those
aged 25 years and under at greater risk of abuse (… first

Low income and low educational attainment also risk
Gender and Power?

Power and control – operates in both
lesbian and gay relationships, with some
gendered norms. Also use of other
‘inversely oppressive’ aspects.
Heterosexual male paradigm (physical
violence) - men report experiencing more
physical violence than lesbians
Lack of ‘gender’ in same sex relationships
– but evidence of gendered norms.

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