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Myths About Same Gender Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, and Stalking

MYTH: Abusers are men; victims are women.

  • In heterosexual relationships, most abusers are men, and most victims are women. Relationship violence advocacy has focused almost entirely on heterosexual battered women, with the result that domestic violence has mostly been understood in terms of male/female relationships and the sexism that shapes them and supports male abuse of women.
  • Because abuse in same-sex relationships doesn’t fit this heterosexual pattern, it has been difficult for helpers (including relationship violence advocates) to recognize.
  • It is most difficult for advocates to recognize women who abuse their partners, and men who are abused.
  • Translated into LGTB relationships, this myth leads to the assumption that the partners adopt masculine and feminine roles and that, where there is relationship violence, the bigger, stronger or more masculine-appearing partner is likely to be the one who is abuser.

MYTH: Abusers are usually bigger, stronger or more butch than their partners.

  • LGTB abusers are not always larger or more masculine than their partner (just as individual heterosexual men are not always bigger than the women they batter).
  • Individual abusers can exploit whatever differences exist.
  • Those who are larger than their partners often rely on their size to intimidate their partner
  • Abusers who are smaller than their partners can use their smaller size to get others to discount their partner’s disclosure of violence. “Although I outweighed him by 30 pounds, he got me down on the ground and started pummeling me with his fists and pounding my head against the sidewalk."
  • Victims who are bigger than their abusive partners may be afraid to fight back for fear of injuring their partner, may be afraid that others will see them as the abuser because of their size, or may blame themselves (and be blamed by others) for “allowing” themselves to be beaten.
  • Butch-looking male or female victims are often discounted by people who assume they could have prevented it the abuse if they had wanted to.
  • Stereotypes of femininity get in the way of recognizing that people — male or female — who appear very feminine can also be abusive. They can use their femininity to get others to discount their partner’s disclosure of violence. “She’s a few inches shorter than / am.... She’s very pretty. She dressed very femininely. You would look at her and you’d think she didn’t have a fist.”

MYTH: LGTB victims can easily leave abusive partners because they have no legal ties to them.

  • Absence of legal ties does not automatically make it easy to leave an abuser. Adolescents with abusive dating partners, and heterosexuals who live abusers to whom they are not married also experience difficulty leaving.
  • Although most LGTB partners are not able to marry, they may have legal ties. They may share a bank account or apartment lease; jointly own a home, vehicle, business or other property; share insurance; or have joint custody of children (less frequent).
  • LGTB people experience the same range of casual-to-committed relationships heterosexuals do, but same-sex relationships are wrongly seen as less serious, enduring, or significant. This leads many people to take violence in LGBT relationships less seriously, which in turn can make it more difficult for LGBT victims to leave abusive partners.
  • LGTB people who leave a relationship often do not receive the same level of  family and social support that heterosexual people get after a break-up.
  • Heterosexual battered women leave their partners an average of 6-8 times before they separate for good, and there is no reason to think that leaving is easier for LGTB victims. Ending the relationship doesn’t necessarily end the violence, and trying to do so may actually increase their danger, increasing the likelihood of getting killed by their partner.

MYTH: Transgender people wouldn’t get hurt if they didn’t dress or try to be something they’re not (e.g. If “he” didn’t dress and act like a woman, “he” wouldn’t get hurt).

  • Transgender people who identify and live as the gender opposite to their birth sex are not “acting.”
  • Abuse is abuse, regardless of how a person identifies or chooses to express themselves. No behavior of the victim should ever be seen as a reason to abuse them, but abusers often confuse their partners by claiming that the abuse is in response to something the partner has done.

The above is reprinted from Domestic Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual Communities Participant Manual , July 2001, NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.