Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships

There’s this misconception that lesbian relationships do not experience abuse. Mainly because people have this perception that because there are two emotional beings in a relationship, it’s unlikely that abuse would take place between partners – completely untrue!

The rates of abuse in same sex relationships are rated exceedingly higher compared to our heterosexual peers. Many lesbian relationships experience two kinds of abuse – physical and emotional abuse.

Women who identify as bisexual, lesbian, or queer experience 46% of abuse in many of their relationships compared to 35% of heterosexual women.

That raises the question, why are people so unaware of the abuse taking place in our community? 

First and foremost, there are various forms of partner abuse that is experienced in many relationships. In no way is this post disregarding anyone from a specific culture, religion, sexual orientation, or identity. However, the problem is that many people are uninformed and ignorant to the experiences of abused women in same sex relationships. 

Physical and Emotional Abuse

We all know the overall definition of physical abuse, as it is often evident and definitive. It’s intentionally causing injury, trauma, or harm by using physical force to an individual(s). A few common examples include hitting, shoving, reckless driving and sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse can be a lot more challenging to recognize, as you don’t realize you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship immediately. It is difficult to differentiate because they can take on various forms including manipulation and individually altering ones psychological well-being. Although these examples are all consistent in abusive same-sex relationships, there are a few differences. 

Where are all the reports?

It’s often assumed that masculine presenting women are the abusers in the relationship – NOT always the case.

It’s important for people to ask questions and acknowledge that there are two women in the relationship and either one – whether both feminine, both masculine presenting, or feminine AND masculine presenting can be the abuser in the relationship. 

Victims in lesbian relationships are at a major disadvantage because of how society perceives abuse in these relationships. There is something called secondary victimization. It’s when victims experience bias and insensitive behaviors when reporting their abuse to service providers.

When lesbian women report abuse, they often experience a lack of support from family, society, and law enforcement. They are rarely taken seriously and experience internalized homophobia. Another issue is that many LGBT support groups and organizations are underfunded and end up shutting down; resulting in abuses not being reported.

I, like so many have seen toxic/abusive relationships unfold on social media and on television; and like so many, I would confidently say that could never be me. The reality is, it never begins the way we typically think and you don’t realize it until you’re emotionally invested.

As a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship with someone who was mentally ill with sociopathic/narcissistic traits, I can clearly define the signs and manipulative tactics. 

Signs you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship:

GASLIGHTING

  • This is one of the most effective ways for an abuser to make you question yourself, feelings, and instinct by playing the victim. This gives the abuser a sense of power over you.
  • An example that I’ve experienced from a partner was attempting to make me and the people closest to me think that I was crazy.

ACTING OUT OF CHARACTER

  • If you find yourself acting out of character, you are probably in an abusive relationship or experiencing an abusive trait from your partner.
  • Examples can be avoiding situations to prevent upsetting your partner, feelings of guilt, heightened feelings of anxiety, and no longer feeling like your normal self. 

ISOLATION

  • They are known for isolating you from your friends and family. This also falls under a form of control. Abusers tend to try and control what you do, how the people around you view you, and have trouble managing their jealousy.
  • This often leads to distancing of friends and family and having to rely on your abuser as a form of support.

UNDERMINING

  • Abusers undermine your opinions, things that hold value to you in your life, and use your insecurities as leverage.

Abusers can also reinforce internalized homophobia. As women, we have to remember that female abusers use emotions strategically. They will use the way we accept love as a means of manipulation, use their charm and seduction as a form of getting us to accept their altered version of reality, and use grand gestures as a way of compensating for their abusive and manipulative ways when challenged. 

STONEWALLING

  • Stonewalling is another form of abuse. It’s when a partner basically goes radio silent and shuts down on you and returns as if nothing happened.
  • The silent treatment is frequently used by abusers for days and even weeks at a time. It’s a method of trying to weaken you until they’ve gained control.

IRRATIONAL BEHAVIOR & RAGE

  •  This works inversely to stonewalling and is exactly what it’s called. It includes name calling and insulting remarks generally done to lower victims self-confidence.
  • Following stonewalling and irrational behavior, abusers almost always go for grand gestures – thinking that it will compensate for their toxic behaviors. Subsequently leading them to repeatedly remind you of all of the things they claim to have “done for you out of love”. 
  • Emotional abusers are charismatic and portray to be kind, caring, and loving partners in the beginning.

As women, we are typically nurturing and emotional beings who want to see the best in our partners. This sometimes leads us to blatantly ignore the red flags that abusers pick up on and use as ammunition.

TWO COMMON TYPES OF ABUSERS

  • Sociopath/narcissistic and those who have experienced abuse in past and familial relationships.

Those who have sociopathic and narcissistic traits tend to go after strong, independent women and use them as a game to see how well they can psychologically break them down.

What once was a charming and appealing partner has now become a pathological liar with a reoccurring cycle of manipulative behavior.

  • The other type of abuser is the one suffering from their own abuse. It often begins at home – experiences of rape, molestation, physical, emotional abuse, and abandonment issues. Instead of dealing with their issues, they play the victim role and abuse their partners by subtly using the victims emotions as a weapon.

WHY IT’S SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO LEAVE

  • One of the obvious reasons why it’s hard to leave abusers is because of those feelings alone. Additionally, many times it’s a victims first lesbian relationship. Navigating your first same sex relationship with a woman can be challenging for some. Especially when you lack positive reinforcement and don’t have access to representation of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Falling in love with a woman who turned out to be an abuser can expose fears of being alone. Some victims become comfortable living in that cycle because they know what to expect.

Staying is somehow easier to deal with than leaving and having to deal with the emotional loss of that person. It becomes somewhat like an addiction; knowing that it’s bad for you but not wanting to lose that high of that person being there.

  • Another reason why women tend to stay a little longer than they should is because of parental dynamics and traumatic childhood experiences that develops a person to have more tolerance for abuse. 

In lesbian relationships, women have trouble determining what constitutes as emotional abuse when dealing with it directly. They are able to acknowledge  experienced abuse when they’ve removed themselves from the environment and reflected on the actions of their abuser.

REFLECTION

Honestly, there are multiple reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. As you know, it all relates to personal experiences and how they view themselves.

If you know someone close to you that is or has experienced any of the above mentioned signs, it is important that you don’t judge them. They need to feel safe, supported, and know that they are not being judged for their situation.

They are already battling with shame and embarrassment with themselves for being in the toxic relationship. A lot of times, people just have to go through it to get themselves out. A victim will never leave until they’ve personally had enough.

It’s all a lesson of learning self-love.