By A.J. Mahari © 2005-2008

The Most Powerful Personal           
Growth Program

Abuse In Lesbian Relationships

by A.J. Mahari

Contrary to the myth that women are only abused by men, some lesbian women abuse their female partners. Lesbian abusers perpetrate violence, and all types of abuse.

Lesbian abusers perpetrate sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, domestic violence, financial and spiritual abuse upon their intimates.

When two people are in a relationship, regardless of gender, old unresolved issues from childhood can be triggered and re-activated. This is one major source of abuse. Notwithstanding, however, it does not justify any form or type of abuse.

People in intimate relationships, regardless of gender, with unresolved issues and who, for whatever reason, are not taking personal responsibility for their feelings and actions can and do end up being abusive.

Within lesbian relationships, women do abuse women. This abuse is not limited to any stereotypical presentation either. In other words, it is not necessarily the woman "most like a man" or the more butch dyke that abuses the so-called lesbian femme. Abuse can and does go either way or, in some relationships, with a toxic dynamic, both ways.

Abuse in lesbian relationships, until more recently, has remained a fairly hidden reality. Along with other general prejudiced and inaccurate ideas about lesbians and their relationships, persists the notion that to reveal the sum total of the worst of the abuse present in some lesbian relationships would only further see these relationships condemned in society over-all.

No woman, lesbian or straight, should ever have to remain in an abusive situation or relationship because she fears further judgment and/or prejudice or homophobia, in the case of lesbian women, from society, peers, or any agencies or systems in place to be of help to the victims of abuse, specifically intimate abuse.

One of the greatest challenges arising from the reality of abuse in lesbian relationships is the difficulty that can unfold when one or both women try to get help. Many women fleeing from an abuser seek refuge in and help from women's shelters. When the abuse victim is a heterosexual woman abused by a man the system has a clear mandate help and support the woman. However, when both the abuser and the victim of abuse are women, the system is confronted with the difficult task of figuring out which woman to help. It is not always easy to distinguish which woman is the victim and which is the abuser:

  • a) because they are in fact each both they are abusing each other and the victim of each other's abuse or
  • b) because the woman who is abusive may present herself as the victim of the woman who is actually her victim to keep her partner from being able to be helped which is in and of itself, abusive.

For the lesbian abuser finding help, even if she wants it and recognizes that she needs it, can be very difficult. Most books on the subject of abuse refer to the abuser or batterer as a male.

There is a reluctance on the part of many lesbian women who are the victims of abuse and/or domestic violence, perhaps even greater than that of straight women, to trust the very shelter workers, health care professionals and police officers whose help they need because they fear that they are not educated enough or open enough to provide unbiased intervention without homophobic reactions that are counter-productive for both the lesbian victim of domestic intimate other abuse and the lesbian abuser who also needs help.

Professionals and society, in general, need to more closely examine, support, and define, both treatment for the lesbian abuser and help for the lesbian victim of abuse.

Abuse in lesbian relationships is as real as the abuse that is much more widely known and reported between those in heterosexual relationships.

A.J. Mahari 2006

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