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Is Domestic Violence More Common For Same Sex Couples?

 Posted on February 04, 2016 in Domestic Violence

domestic violence, Naperville family law attorneyWe all know that domestic violence is a dangerous problem in America. Recent reports have shown that about 25 percent of heterosexual women experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. This alarmingly high rate includes any sexual, physical, or psychological harm inflicted on a victim by a current or past partner. Researchers have studied domestic violence since the 1970’s, but have primarily focused on opposite-sex relationships where women are abused by a male partner. Thanks to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, LGBTQ individuals across the country are now legally able to marry in every state. Do people in same-sex relationships and marriage experience domestic violence at a similar rate to heterosexual couples? Researchers from Chicago’s Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine say yes, same sex couples do experience domestic violence, and in fact, at possibly higher rates than straight couples.

The researchers studied data collected from a variety of surveys on nearly 30,000 individuals, and discovered that between 25 to 75 percent of bisexual, lesbian, and gay people report being victims of domestic violence. Though that is a wide percentage range, the researchers say a lack of data and the tendency for same sex domestic violence to not be reported likely indicates that the percentage of violence for same-sex relationships is somewhere towards the higher end of the spectrum. Even if only 25 percent of individuals in same-sex relationships experience domestic violence, advocates say that puts them in alignment with the average 25 percent of heterosexual women who experience domestic violence, and in all likelihood, the percentage of same-sex individuals who experience domestic violence is significantly higher. Similar studies have shown that domestic violence rates among same-sex couples were as high, or higher in many cases, than the numbers for heterosexual couples.

Advocates say that finding conclusive data on same-sex domestic violence is often difficult, as individuals may experience fear of being blamed or potentially outed. “It is not as easy for same-sex couples to be open about these things in the first place,” writes the study's author. Aside from the potential stress that may keep people from reporting domestic violence, the researchers also say that the higher numbers could be due to the stress of being a sexual minority. Same-sex individuals still fear the same blame and judgement they may face when reporting domestic violence, but they may also fear they will be mistreated or abused due to their sexual orientation. In some cases, the individual may not be openly out, so reporting the violence coming from a same-sex partner would reveal their orientation. Researchers also suggest that another potential factor behind the higher rates may be that same-sex individuals have developed homophobia due to being raised in a predominantly heterosexual society, and commit acts of violence towards their partners due to this underlying and potentially unnoticed homophobia.

Fortunately, advocates say that recent attention to this issue is raising awareness throughout the LGBTQ community. Resources aimed specifically at homosexual couples are becoming more widely available, and as societies opinions on same-sex relationships change, advocates hope more individuals will be willing to report the domestic violence they experience. Advocates say the next step is getting healthcare and mental health providers caught up on the issue. The study’s author writes that “providers need to be sensitized to dealing with issues of the homosexual population and the willingness and ability to ask about domestic violence and knowing where to refer them if that come up.”

If you live in the Chicago area and are experiencing violence within your household, a qualified family law attorney is available to assist you today. The experienced team at Pesce Law Group, P.C. work to protect families and individuals from cases of violence. We have the tools to keep you and your children out of harm's way, and will work with you to develop long term solutions. Call 630-352-2240 to speak to one of our Chicago area family lawyers today to learn more about your options. We are here to help.


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