The Gendered Abuse We Don't Talk About



It was late one autumn night that Jay* finally accepted her five-year relationship couldn’t be salvaged. The streets that lined her suburb were still and empty, but inside her home the noise wouldn’t stop. That night, Jay’s partner stood at the top of the stairs, furious and screaming, trying to get a reaction from Jay. As the tirade continued, Jay curled herself into a ball at the bottom of the stairs, attempting to make herself as small as possible. “I couldn’t move, I was absolutely paralysed.”

It was this scene that greeted police when they arrived at the same-sex couple’s home, after their neighbours called Triple 000. No charges were laid, but the incident was enough to convince Jay that it was over, and within weeks the pair had separated. Looking back, she says she can see the relationship was both unhealthy and unsafe. But at the time, Jay, who’s built a career as an activist and sharp communicator, didn’t recognise it as domestic abuse.

“There’s this misconception, especially in the lesbian community, that [relationships are] just going to be so much better, easier, and safer when you’re dating women (as opposed to dating men). So, for me there were red flags early on in the relationship, but it was very easy for me to ignore that.”

– Jay*

Intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships is something that’s rarely talked about. Yet, there is evidence of high rates of abuse in minority relationships, with some studies suggesting that it may even be more common than in heterosexual relationships. The data is imperfect, but revealing. A 2019 survey of 7000 LGBTQI+ people by La Trobe University found that three in five had experienced violence from an intimate partner (which compares to one in three for heterosexual women).

In 2017, researchers drawing on Australia’s long-term study into women’s health, found that women who identified as mainly heterosexual, bisexual or lesbian were two to three times as likely to have been in a violent relationship in the past three years, compared with women who identified as exclusively heterosexual. Neither study identifies the gender identity or sexual orientation of the abuser, but the admittedly incomplete data does reveal a disturbing reality not widely acknowledged.

“Anecdotally, we know that the rate of abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships is alarming. There’s still a huge amount of work to be done because... LGBTQI people are being placed at a greater risk of harm and abuse because it’s not being identified early on, so it’s not being responded to appropriately.”

– Ben Bjarnesen, a former police officer and DV campaigner

Right now, mainstream services are focused on the domestic violence crisis in the general population, where one woman is killed by a partner every week on average. Understandably, these services are focused on preventing homicide and homelessness. But as long as same-sex abuse is overlooked, women like Jay will be rendered vulnerable – unseen and unsupported by the system.

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



Are we ignoring intimate partner violence in same-sex communities? And at what cost? Read the full article by Kylie Morris at PRIMER.


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