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Families First: GLBT Family Issues and Resources (February 2015): Intimate Partner Violence

By Ellen Bosman

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence can occur in any relationship; however the GLBT community has been slow to recognize the problem. One theory concerning the silence surrounding this issue focuses on the perceived shame of being abused by someone of the same gender, particularly in male-male relationships where the cult of masculinity dominates. Many of the works in this category are nonfiction. The earliest works are Kerry Lobel’s edited Naming the Violence and David Island and Patrick Letellier’s Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them. Lobel brings together personal narratives in her groundbreaking book. Some stories evoke sadness, and others chronicle victory over violence. One of Lobel’s greatest contributions is her call for additional research—a call that has been heeded. Island and Letellier follow on Lobel’s heels with an exploration of male-male violence. Rather than anthologizing the topic, they draw on the intimate partner violence literature that relates to heterosexual women with the intent of translating the theory, practice, and politics to gay men. Overall, the book takes a psychological approach; the profiles of batterers and victims are a unique contribution.

Although portions of Beth Leventhal and Sandra Lundy’s edited anthology Same-Sex Domestic Violence are somewhat dated, such as the chapter on HIV, this book offers a rich variety of essays from survivors, almost exclusively lesbian, and social service personnel. The idea that the abused person is twice abused—once by a partner and again by the legal system’s failure to recognize same-sex intimate partner violence—is a powerful one. This volume discusses this issue, and also offers suggestions for activism and service provision. The chapters on sadomasochism and intimate partner violence, and on the often-overlooked bisexual battering victim, are unique and justify the title’s place in library collections.

An example of the fulfillment of Lobel’s call is Claire Renzetti’s Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships, which turned to the lesbian community to conduct the first empirical study about intimate partner violence. The beginning of the twenty-first century saw this issue come out of the shadows, with three books published in 2002 that focus on lesbians. From among this trio Lori Girshick’s Woman-to-Woman Sexual Violence stands out for carrying on Renzetti’s work with a quantitative and qualitative approach to the subject, surveying and interviewing seventy women. Those looking for more material on this subject should consult the website of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), which grew out of a New York City-based program founded in 1980. Focused on collating data on local and affiliated efforts, the website features toolkits and extensive surveys and reports. Additionally the website for Lambda Legal, which advocates for GLBT rights in every situation, offers useful information on issues including housing, employment, marriage, and immigration, among others. 

Works Cited