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Myths & Facts

SSLogoThere are many myths about violence in general and especially about violence in LGBTQQ communities. Do you know the realities?

Myth 1: Only straight women get battered. Men are not victims of domestic violence, and women never batter.

Reality: Such myths ignore and deny the realities of same-sex relationships. Men can be and are victims of domestic violence. Women can be batterers. Domestic violence is fundamentally a power issue. Even when two people are of the same gender, power differences exist and can be abused.

Myth 2: Domestic violence is more common in heterosexual relationships than it is in same-sex relationships.

Reality: There is no reason whatsoever to assume that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) people are less violent than heterosexual men and women. Research on same-sex domestic violence can be difficult, given the fact that many LGBTQQ people are not comfortable being open about their relationships, let alone abusive ones. Research that has been done indicates that battering in same-sex relationships is about as common as in heterosexual relationships. It is increasingly agreed that battering presents one of the most significant health risks to LGBTQQ communities today.

Myth 3: It really isn’t violence when a same-sex couple fights. It’s just a lovers’ quarrel, a fair fight between equals.

Reality: This is based on the false assumption that two people of the same gender have no power differences. It also ignores the fact that domestic violence depends on the choice of one partner to take advantage of her or his power in abusive ways. There is nothing “fair” about being knocked against a wall, being threatened, or enduring endless criticism from an angry lover. Dismissing domestic violence as “just a lover’s quarrel” trivializes and excuses violence that is as real and dangerous as any in a heterosexual relationship.

Myth 4: It really isn’t violence when gay men fight. It’s boys being boys. A man should be able to defend himself.

Reality: These ideas grow out of a larger societal attitude and the primitive notion that it is acceptable for men to be violent; that it is normal or even appropriately masculine. There is nothing normal or appropriate about domestic violence. The vast majority of men and women are not violent and the majority of same-sex relationships are free of abuse. “Boys being boys” may have been harmless (or was it?) on the playground at age six, but when you’re an adult with injuries inflicted by your lover, it is neither normal nor acceptable.

Myth 5: The batterer is always bigger, stronger, more “butch.” Victims will always be smaller, weaker, more feminine.

Reality: Experience with heterosexual battering and attitudes about traditional sex roles lead many to fall into stereotypes of how batterers and victims, respectively, should look and act. Unfortunately, such stereotypes are of little actual use in helping us identify who the batterer is in a same-sex relationship. A person who is small, but prone to violence and rage can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger, and non-violent. Size, weight, “masculinity”, “femininity” or any other physical attribute or role is not a good indicator of whether a person will be a victim or a batterer. A batterer does not need to be 6’1” and built like a rugby player to use a weapon against you, smash your compact discs, cut up your clothing, or tell everyone at work that you really are “queer.”

Myth 6: It only happens when he/she ________… so that’s the real problem, not battering.

Reality: Alcohol, drugs, work problems, jealousy, trauma histories, HIV/AIDS and stresses resulting from racism or homophobia may all combine with battering, but they don’t explain or excuse the battering. If a person who batters is also on drugs or alcohol, that person has two serious separate problems. Similarly, a person who has been a victim of child abuse, a hate crime or other trauma in their lives is not relieved of responsibility for his or her own abusive conduct.

Myth 7: Domestic violence primarily occurs among people of color, those who hang out in bars, or those from poor or working class backgrounds. No one could be a batterer who is educated, feminist, religious, friendly and likeable, involved in social issues, working in the domestic violence movement, etc.

Reality: Domestic violence is an equal opportunity phenomenon. Batterers come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic classes, all educational levels, all occupations and all political stripes. This myth is helpful to those who would like to deny or distance themselves from domestic abuse in our communities, but no group is exempt.

Myth 8: Lesbian and Gay domestic violence is sexual behavior, a version of S & M. The victim actually likes it.

Reality: This myth persists in part because many people still define and understand LGBTQQ people exclusively through sexual behavior. Confusing S & M (sado-masochism) with battering keeps us from facing the reality that domestic violence occurs in all kinds of relationships and is not the victim’s fault. In consensual S & M, any violence, coercion, or domination occurs within the context of a mutually pleasurable ‘scene’ within which there is trust and/or an agreement between the parties about the limits and boundaries of behavior. In contrast domestic violence takes place without any mutual trust or agreement, and is not consensual or pleasurable for the victim. A batterer’s violent and coercive behaviors don’t just affect the sexual relationship, but pervade other aspects of the relationship as well. This is not to say that abuse cannot take place within relationships where there is S & M. A batterer may actually coerce consent to violent or dominating sexual behavior or violate agreed upon boundaries. But when this happens, it’s abuse and not S & M.

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