How does domestic abuse present itself in same-sex relationships?

Most of the information regarding domestic abuse focuses on heterosexual relationships. As domestic abuse can present itself differently in different relationships this means that it can be harder to identify domestic abuse outside of heterosexual relationships. Domestic abuse within the LGBTQ+ community is vastly underreported (Gallop 2020). It is therefore important to raise awareness of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships, to enable individuals to recognise when they are victims of abuse and seek help.

What is the law?

Physical incidents of domestic abuse can be prosecuted as a criminal offence, falling under the remit of Assault, battery, ABH or Grievous Bodily Harm. Other forms of domestic abuse, psychological, emotional, financial, can be prosecuted under the Serious Crime Act which criminalised controlling and coercive behaviour against intimate partners.

The law also offers non-criminal protections against abuse. One example is a non-molestation order. A victim can seek a court order to prevent the perpetrator from doing specific things towards them personally, such as contacting the victim, visiting their house, visiting their workplace etc. There are also occupation orders which enable a victim to re-enter the family home or remain in the home, and at the same time exclude the perpetrator from the property. These can apply equally to same-sex relationships as it would to opposite sex relationships.

Abuse within same-sex relationships

Studies carried out by Stonewall illustrate that 25% of lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse and 49% of all gay and bisexual men, in comparison to heterosexual relationships where 26% of women have experienced abuse and 15% of men (The Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2021)

An example of abuse specific to same-sex relationships, is where one person is not public about their sexuality and the other is threatening to ‘expose/reveal’ their sexuality to family/friends/colleagues. Threatening to reveal personal information such as someone’s sexuality can be a form of emotional and psychological abuse. This can be particularly difficult where a victim is part of a religious, social, or ethnic group in which their sexuality is not as accepting of same-sex relationships, as this may lead to the victim feeling isolated from their respective community and at risk of exclusion and other repercussions.

Perpetrators of abuse may psychologically abuse their victims by undermining their sexuality. This may come in the form of accusations that they are not ‘gay enough’. This may also lead to sexual abuse, where victims are coerced into sexual acts to ‘prove’ their sexual orientation.

Bisexual individuals in a heterosexual relationship can face manipulation surrounding their sexuality. Perpetrators may deny the validity of a victim’s sexuality. The perpetrator telling their victim that they are heterosexual. This can be emotionally manipulative.

What can domestic abuse look like in same-sex and bi-sexual relationships?

  • Threats to reveal a person’s sexual orientation to friends, family, or work colleagues without their consent.
  • Using sexual orientation to exclude a victim from their communities.
  • Psychological abuse through undermining a victim’s sexuality.
  • Abusers may coerce their victims into sexual acts based on ‘proving’ their sexual orientation.

More information and support here

What can domestic abuse look like for a transgender or non-binary individuals?

  • The abuser may emotionally abuse through dead naming (using their previous gender name) and misgendering.
  • The perpetrator may isolate the victim by preventing them from seeking gender recognition or gender affirming treatment.
  • The abuser may be financially abusive, manipulating gender roles to prevent the victim working or coerce the victim into being the main bread winner.
  • The perpetrator may sexually abuse the victim by pressuring them into having sexual relations in ways that the victim is not comfortable with.
  • The abuser may threaten to reveal the victim’s transgender history.

More information and support here

What can domestic abuse look like for a male victim?

  • Emotional abuse through false allegations of rape or physical violence.
  • Controlling a partner through pregnancy or lying about pregnancies.
  • Men can be victims of physical abuse and perpetrators often seek to dissuade victims from seeking help on the basis that they would not be believed if they spoke out.

More information and support here

What can you do if you believe you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship?

Here at Ellisons, all our colleagues in our Family Law team from secretaries, receptionists to solicitors and partners are trained in responding to domestic abuse so can assist you in your next steps. Our priority is ensuring the safety of domestic abuse survivors. We offer advice on leaving a relationship and assistance on protecting yourself physically and financially.