Spot the Signs; Intimate Partner Violence Among the Queers

“I just want to feel safe.”

This sentence was ringing in my head while going through the most challenging period of my life. Dealing with a violent partner is tough, it takes boldness, guts, and determination to have a toxic and abusive relationship. 

Going home not with excitement or happiness, but with sadness and fear. When does it really end? Queer women face Intimate partner abuse, despite the myth that IPV is exclusively an issue in heterosexual relationships. 

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship.  “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. According to numerous authors, the expression “IPV” represents a form of violence that both men and women can enact, with no regard to age, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Domestic violence and intimate partner abuse have often been understood as men’s violence against women. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified individuals consistently experience intimate partner violence at similar or higher rates as heterosexual women. 

The CDC’s 2010 national study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience intimate partner and sexual violence at the same or higher rates as heterosexual people, although bisexual women experienced violence at overall higher rates:

  • 44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women (compared to 35% of heterosexual women) experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men (compared to 29% of heterosexual men) experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

During my young queer years, I remember witnessing violence happen among my older friends, my teenage self thought it was a lesbian thing, the usual girl beating up her girlfriend because she caught her cheating, or the girl gets jealous and emotionally abuses her girlfriend. I have heard women say they are afraid of their partners because of repeated abuse which causes psychological and physical damage. Growing up, I really thought lesbians were intense, passionate, and jealous lovers because of the constant way the people I knew treated their partners. Little did I know that I was witnessing toxic and abusive relationships among friends. Of course, now I know better.

Abuse can consist of physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, or injure. Abusers  may not immediately try to control their partner and it may be months or years before the abuse starts. In fact, many abusive relationships begin with an intense honeymoon period, it’s all lovey-dovey at first before it becomes catastrophic.

Spotting the red flags early can help you make the right decision to leave an abusive relationship, below you will find a list of behaviors seen in abusers; 

  • Controlling behavior. At first the person will say this behavior is due to their concern for your safety. They will get angry if the woman is ‘late’ coming back from work or an appointment and will question her closely about where she went and with whom she talked. Also going through their partner’s phone without their permission are toxic behavior.
  • Jealousy:  You may think this jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love. It is a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. 
  • Isolation: The abuser tries to cut their partner off from all resources and support. 
  • Blames others for problems and gaslights the victim. They make others responsible for their feelings.
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Threats
  • Use of force or physical violence 

You may be wondering, why not simply report to the authorities or family, it’s not that easy. Especially for those who live in homophobic countries, the fear of being outed would prevent a lesbian from reporting her abusive partner to the authorities. Some people also lack resources (legal support, finances to take action, and many other barriers.

Let’s be kind to each other and speak up about our experiences to motivate people to stand up and fight against violence of any form.


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