According to the National Violence Against Women survey, domestic violence affects 1 in 3 lesbian relationships. And tragically, many victims remain silent. If we, as a society, have learned anything during October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is that domestic violence does not discriminate. It knows no race, color, socioeconomic status — or sexual orientation. So how can we help women trapped in these relationships reach out and get the help they need, and that is there for them?
One important solution requires us to confront barriers and stereotypes that gay people in our society still sadly endure, especially around the issue of domestic violence. As The Advocate points out, the choice of many same-sex victims of domestic abuse to remain silent stems from a desire not to harm perceptions of the LGBT community. However, silence can translate to feelings of invisibility and confusion. “[Many gay men and lesbians] who are suffering either don’t realize that they’re in a terrible situation or don’t know where to go or who to tell. They wonder who will listen, who will believe them,” The Advocate reports.
To compound matters further, according to author and lesbian relationships expert Kathy Belge, certain myths exist regarding lesbian relationships:
– Lesbian relationships cant have domestic violence, because they are both women.
– Only the butch partner can be abusive.
– It must be mutual abuse or fighting if both partners are of the same sex.
– A physically smaller partner cannot abuse a larger partner.
– S/M is abuse and domestic violence.
– Drugs or alcohol are to blame for the violence if she only attacks when under the influence
But, these are just myths. Domestic violence, including controlling behavior, excessive jealousy and threats to harm are not exclusive to one group over another. Are you in abusive relationship? It’s time to reach out for help:
- Get emergency help: If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and escape where you are if possible.
- Make an escape plan. Write down important numbers, who you can talk, and where to get help. Keep this information with a trusted friend, or stored in a safe place the abuser does not have access to (locker at work, etc.).
- Learn about your legal rights. Get our free downloadable ebook, A Guide for Victims of Domestic Violence in New Jersey to learn about your legal rights and options.
- File for a Restraining Order. If you are in danger, strongly consider obtaining a temporary restraining order, which can later be converted to a final restraining order after a hearing in the family court, here in New Jersey.
- File for temporary child custody. If you have children, and you believe they’re in danger, you can request a temporary child custody order be put in place restricting contact with the abusive parent. You will need to include the children in your TRO, as well as a risk assessment. You will also need to explain why it’s dangerous for your children to have visitation with the abuser.
- File for child support. If your abuser is employed, the court can order emergency child support that can be paid through wage garnishment (learn more about child support calculations).
- Obtain temporary alimony. If you are married to your abuser, you may be able to obtain temporary alimony in order to give you money to live. An experienced family law attorney can help advise and guide you on how to move forward with obtaining a temporary or final restraining order and also how to obtain financial support for both you and your children as needed.
Your safety matters. For information about safe house shelters and services for same-sex victims in your area, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (800) 799-SAFE.