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While domestic violence or partner abuse in same gender couples involves power and control dynamics similar to those of heterosexual relationships, there are two basic issues that make dealing with same-gender couples different for law enforcement and service providers.

Determining the Nature of the Relationship
It may be difficult to assess if two people of the same gender are partners if neither person readily reveals the nature of their relationship.

Determining the Primary Aggressor
Because of the prevalence of male perpetrators of domestic violence the initial assumption in a heterosexual couple is that the man is the predominant aggressor. If partner abuse is occurring in a same gender couple, however, it can be more difficult to determine the predominant aggressor.

Unique Characteristics
There are a number of characteristics which have extenuating circumstances or may be entirely unique to same gender partner abuse:

Isolation – Victims often endure isolation forced upon them by their perpetrator as a means of control. LGBTQ victims may experience this to a greater degree due to already limited social and emotional support. If the victim is not “out” to friends, family and co-workers, they are not afforded some of the strongest support systems.

Heterosexism and Homophobia – Heterosexism is the belief that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and homophobia is an unfounded fear of people who are LGBTQ. The use of heterosexist language can make a victim feel unsafe or unable to open up. If it is assumed that a victim is heterosexual, the victim may not correct the error and as a result will not received adequate services.

Co-Parenting – A co-parent in a LGBTQ relationship is a non-birth parent of a child. If the perpetrator is the birth parent of a child which both partners are raising, the victim faces the reality of giving up that parenting role.

Stereotypes – LGBTQ victims cannot be serviced adequately or appropriately if service providers function on stereotyped ideas and images. Domestic violence is not about physical size or strength, masculinity or femininity; it is about power and control. It is neither safe nor appropriate to make assumptions about clients based on physical characteristics.

Size of LGBTQ Community – Outside of a few large cities, most LGBTQ communities are very small which can make it very difficult for a victim to avoid a perpetrator. The social spaces for LGBTQ people (community centers, clubs/bars, churches, groups, etc.) are very limited and a victim will often withdraw out of fear of contact with the perpetrator.

Outing – The phenomenon known as “outing” is the practice of revealing the sexual orientation of a person without his/her consent, thereby exposing the person to very real threats of homophobic society. For example, if a person is "outed" to their boss, they may lose their job. Or, be exposed to threats or acts of violence This fear can be the most immobilizing threat used to keep a victim in an abusive relationship. One solution to this threat is to com out on one's own wolition thereby disempowering the threat and control of a perpetrator, however, this my not be a good solution for each person. The process of “coming out” is an intensely personal one and each individual must begin this when it is right for him/her.

Advocates work directly with victims of domestic violence to address all areas of concern. Call 303.772.0432
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Safe Shelter provides safety, support and resources to individuals affected by domestic abuse. We promote empowerment through direct services and community education, advocating for the right of every individual to live a life free of intimidation, exploitation and abuse.

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