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Lesbian and Gay Domestic Violence

Feminist dogma that domestic violence is exclusively caused by males using power and control to oppress women is significantly undermined by the fact that violence in lesbian relationships is often found at higher rates than in hetrosexual ones. For this reason, efforts are made to "silence" lesbians who attempt to raise it as an issue which needs to be addressed.

A reader of MENZ Issues signed up for (and paid for) a conference expecting to learn more about Maryclare Machen's study of Lesbian Violence. To his astonishment, he was asked to leave the workshop because his reasons for attending were not considered acceptable.

The Second Closet: Domestic Violence in Lesbian and Gay Relationships: A Western Australian Perspective

by Lee Vickers, "a heterosexual feminist with an interest in the operation and effects of patriarchy." Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Vol 3, No 4 (December 1996).

Includes an extensive list of further references and a bibliography on this subject. In February 1994, Robert McEwan was arrested in Perth, Western Australia, and charged with the wilful murder of his same-sex partner of fourteen years. McEwan's partner died from multiple stab wounds. McEwan pleaded not guilty, basing his defence on the "battered wife syndrome" and provocation. McEwan claimed that he had been "dominated and abused physically, sexually, and emotionally" by his partner for several years. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and the matter was referred back to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who, in February 1996, decided not to proceed with the wilful murder charge. The DPP accepted the defences as pleaded and a plea of guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter was recorded. The case is believed to be the first in Australia to successfully rely on the "battered wife (spouse) syndrome" in a same sex relationship.

In Part I of the paper, Recognition of Same Sex Domestic Violence, I define the problem of same sex domestic violence and briefly examine the manifestations, myths and stereotypes, and prevalence, of domestic violence within the context of same sex relationships.

Part II, Issues in Responding to Same Sex Domestic Violence, canvasses the major issues which need to be addressed when considering how to appropriately respond to same sex domestic violence. This part includes a discussion of the reluctance of the lesbian and gay community to acknowledge the problem and the role of heterosexism and homophobia in maintaining their silence, the role and attitudes of the police and courts, and the availability, suitability and accessibility of support services for lesbian and gay victims of domestic violence.

In Part III, Responses to Same Sex Domestic Violence in Perth, I provide an overview of the extent to which the issue of same sex domestic violence has been acknowledged and addressed both within and outside the lesbian and gay community and explore the resources available to assist battered lesbians and gay men in Perth. Attention is paid to the appropriateness of existing support services, both legal (eg police and the courts) and non legal (eg shelters and counselling), and the efforts made to accommodate the needs of battered lesbians and gay men.
On Lesbian Violence:

"But what about violence in lesbian relationships? The incidence I thought would be substantially less, absent the patriarchal male-female gender dynamic and its accompanying power differential. Furthermore, 'female' as socially constructed emphasis as caring, mutuality, passivity and non aggression, and thus intimate relationships between women are more likely to be 'equal' and 'non violent'. The above view, which I think is certainly not atypical, is clearly refuted by the literature."


More information on lesbian violence:

Websites specifically focused on lesbian violence have a strange history of disappearing soon after being linked to by MENZ. Thanks to Rose for pointing out this useful page, which has a list of sites dealing with same-sex violence: Domestic Abuse In Lesbian Relationships.

Next: MENZ Links to other Domestic Violence Websites