Gay or lesbian domestic violence occurs frequently just like heterosexual violence according to statistics. Though this happens as mentioned, there is reluctance by the affected parties to seek redress from the law enforcement agencies. This can be attributed to a number of factors that surround such relationships. To be begin with, it is vital to mention that there is a problem when it comes to understanding the violence in gay and lesbian relationships especially with the feminist theories of domestic violence. These theories tend to emphasize that domestic violence is entirely a male phenomenon whereby it is perpetrated by men against women in a male dominated relationship. This follows that women battered out of lesbian relationships would fall outside the premises of the feminist domestic violence theories.(Pamela 2000)
Most of the gay and lesbian cases go unreported to the police because of a number of factors that are directly related with the victims. The truth of the matter is that there is a reality within gay and lesbian domestic violence that tends to undermine the feminist theories of domestic violence. Today, lesbians still remain outside the domestic violence movements. The exclusion of lesbians from the domestic violence movements has widened the gap between them and their heterosexual counterparts.
With this in mind then it is quite clear that lesbian or gay men in a society dominated by heterosexuals tend to be reluctant to seek help from outside domestic violence shelters. In the event of trying to seek help from agencies such as the police same sex victims have fear that they will not be listened to, understood or even taken to be serious. They therefore shy of in fear of being re-victimized by those who are in charge of the help and support services.
Studies have revealed that out of the number of battered lesbian women who seek support from domestic violence shelters, a greater proportion of these women do not find the support services to be helpful.
First of all since these acts are not in accordance to the norms of the society, there tends to be stigma that is associated with the victims. The victims suffer from what they perceive would be the picture created in the eyes of the society especially after undergoing such acts. By reporting the incidences to the police, most victims fear that they would have exposed themselves out and this would have serious implications in their lives. For instance some would fear losing their partners if they found out that they underwent such unfortunate incidences.
One inherent problem that keeps battered gay and lesbian from reporting their cases to the authorities concerns the fact that they have to cope with the idea of identifying themselves with the two taboo groups which are the victims of domestic violence and the homosexuals. Mustering the courage required to seek help from the police or support services is a big problem especially to the lesbians.(Claire 1996)
The issue of training by the police or staff for support services contributes also to the reluctance by the victims to report their cases. This is because the victims have a feeling that the police do not have sufficient training that can enable them to understand domestic violence in the context of gay or lesbian relationships. There are quite few shelters that cater for the needs of the gay and lesbians in the society. For instance they can only found in the major cities like Washington D.C, Dallas and Los Angeles. With this in mind the victims are left with only two bad choices. One of them is to go to the gay and lesbian centers where the employees are not trained to handle gay or lesbian domestic violence. The other remaining alternative is to go to the domestic violence centers whereby the staffs are not specifically trained to handle lesbian or gay domestic violence.
The gay and lesbian community does not trust the police at all. This is because in some instances those who have reported the cases were physically or emotionally harassed by the police because of their sexual status. In some cases the police even go to the extent of blaming the victim claiming that getting into such relationships then it means that they wanted it to happen. Such treatments really discourage the victims from facing the police. Therefore once bitten the rest remain shy and do not attempt to come out and report cases of abuse to the law enforcer.
Another important issue with the failure by the victims of gay or lesbian domestic violence, concerns the legal system. These victims normally face an uphill task when trying to seek redress from the legal system. There is fear that the legal system with the police and courts will be of more victimization and harassment. This basically due to the fact that most of the people in the legal system practice heterosexuality. The legal system can therefore perceived to be frustrating to the efforts made by the battered partners in gay and lesbian relationships.
The reluctance by the victims can be indicated by them not reporting the cases or in some instances under-reporting the cases of domestic violence.Relactance in most cases has arose when the victims decide on whether to report the cases or not. The reluctance can also be attributed to stereotypes that gays and lesbians are immoral, abnormal and that they are a threat to the traditional family. With such stereotypes in existence the victims fear that they might influence the police and the judges when handing cases of lesbian or gay domestic violence.
Still on the legal system, it should be mentioned that the domestic violence model that has been adopted by the system is one that perceives men to be the batterers and women to be victims. With the adoption of this model, the system has been on track in struggling to punish the perpetrators of lesbian domestic violence. Courts in some cases have only issued mutual retraining orders instead of taking time to establish who the perpetrator is and who the victim is. Fighting back in these cases has been viewed as mutual battery. This therefore means that there is a danger in reporting cases of violence amongst the lesbians. (Mac 1993)
Another stumbling block in reporting cases of lesbian domestic violence concerns the state of some statutes. Some domestic violence statutes exhibit some characteristic specificity. With such gender specificity they do not admit to the fact that there can be incidences of lesbian or gay domestic violence. Gender specific statutes define domestic violence in the context of male batterers and female victims or crime between people of the opposite sex.Those that are status specific define it as crime between cohabitants, spouses or relatives.The sexual orientation of most of the people involved in gay and lesbian relationships is normally descrete.They usually do no like exposing this to the public.
In reporting an incidence of violence to the police, the gay and lesbians fear that the sexual orientation of their partners would be known by everybody. They therefore tend to safeguard this interest and choose not to report incidences of domestic violence.
The failure by the gay and lesbian community themselves to acknowledge the fact that instances of abuse do exist in the relationships. This has been a deterrent to themselves because of the failure to recognize the existence of the problem themselves hence they cannot seek help to a problem which they perceive does not exist. Most of the victims would be hesitant to report cases of abuse because they tend to fear being banished from the community for going contrary to what the entire community perceives or believes does not occur in the relationships.
Just like the heterosexual victims , the gay and lesbians think that cases of domestic violence is a private matter and hence seeking justice from the law enforcers would be trying to bring their private life in public. With this in mind, most victims would try to solve the matter within themselves and avoid reporting it to the police simply because the high level of privacy they consider the matter.(Mac 1993)
Failure of the victims to report cases of abuse can also be attributed to racism in the authorities. Some authorities have the habit of making stereotypical assumptions. For instance assuming that the partner of color in a racial mixed relationship is likely to be considered the abuser. Another assumption is that the colored partners are more aggressive and have the likelihood of fighting back than their white partners. On the part of the colored, basing on such assumptions they have a perception that the police would recognize the fact that they are being abused. This thus creates biasness with the authorities based on the race of the victims.
If the victim is colored , he or she would be very much hesitant to report the case of domestic violence to a white police officer because of the fear that the officer might not approve to the fact that a white partner has indeed abused a colored partner.
Other factors that have caused the reluctance of colored victims to report their cases to the police is the fact that they believe the police respond strongly to cases of violence perpetrated by people of color than for violence cases against them. Another issue protected by the partners is that they do not want their abusing partners to be exposed to racist attacks while in prison. With this some of the abuser may use this as a weapon to prevent the victims from informing the police of the crime.
Therefore from this racist perception it can be pointed out that many gay and lesbians would like to protect the interests of their partners and their community against further victimization from the wider society that is white and heterosexual dominated. This is because their sexual status can be used for discrimination, stigmatization and oppression since they are a minority group ion the society.
Essentially lack of a proper framework within which the needs of the gay and lesbian community can be accommodated provides a major hindrance to the victims of gay and lesbian relationships from reporting cases of abuse by their partners.
This is in the form of legal issues whereby the whole system does not accommodate the gay and lesbians therefore there is a perception that it is not sufficient to address cases of domestic violence from the context of gay and lesbian relationships. Therefore in conclusion, it is important to mention that it actually the legal system coupled by societal factors that deter lesbian and gay victims of domestic violence from reporting their cases to the police.
This has been evidenced from the theoretical point of view whereby the domestic violence theories fail to address the issues of gender and gay and lesbian relationships. The police have to receive their share of the blame for being biased and discriminating against the gay community and thus deterring them from reporting crimes against their sexuality.(Mac 1993)
There is also the issue of racism coming in to play to prevent some victims from accessing justice. The failure by the gay/lesbian community themselves to recognize the indeed the problem exists within their members is also a deterrent to some of the victims from reporting cases of abuse to the police. The fear of further victimization and stigmatization by the society dominated by heterosexuality is also a fundamental issue that has been deterring most victims of gay/lesbian domestic violence. Therefore in my opinion the reluctance by the gay/lesbian victims of domestic violence to report to the police has partly been contributed to by the legal system, the heterosexual society and the gay/lesbian community.
Battered Lovers – The Hidden Problem of Gay Domestic Violence’, The Advocate(LA), 1986, at 42.
Claire M. Renzetti, The Poverty of Services for Battered Lesbians, in Violence in Gay and Lesbian Domestic PARTNERSHIPS 66-67 (Claire M. Renzetti, PhD and Charles Harvey Miley, PhD, eds., 1996).
Pamela M. Jablow, Note, Victims of Abuse and Discrimination: Protecting Battered Homosexuals Under DomesticViolence Legislation, 28 Hofstra L. Rev. 1095, 1105 (2000).
Sandra E. Lundy, Abuse That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Assisting Victims of Lesbians and Gay Domestic Violence in Massachusetts, 28 New Eng. L. Rev. 273, 277 (1993).
Mac D. Hunter, Homosexuals as a New Class of Domestic Violence Subjects Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, 31 U. Louisville J. Fam. L. 557, 611 (1992/1993).