Rob Knight, 208-246-2292
Greg Merrill, 415/777-5500 ext. 304
Toni Broaddus, 415/777-5500 ext. 304
Toni Carrigan, 773/472-6469 ext. 224
Susan Holt, 213/993-7645
Domestic Violence Prevalent in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
and Transgender Relationships
Report Reveals 41% Increase in Cases, Unequal Legal Protection for
Between 25% and 33% of relationships between lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender partners include abuse, a rate equal to that of heterosexual relationships, according to a report released today. Compiled by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the report documents 3, 327 cases of such domestic violence in 1997.
Other report highlights include the finding that statutes in seven states exclude same-sex victims of domestic violence from qualifying for a domestic violence protective order. In three additional states, these orders are arguably unavailable. Statutes in only four states make these orders explicitly available to same-sex victims.
"Domestic violence protective orders are perhaps the most significant legal remedy available to victims," said Toni Broaddus, co-author of the report, "but unfortunately, some states make heterosexuality a prerequisite."
NCAVP documented 975 more cases of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic violence than in 1996, an increase of 41%. According to Greg Merrill, co-author of the report, "While this is an excellent sign that awareness and willingness to seek help have improved, the overall lack of sensitive, available services spells tragedy."
According to Susan Holt, Coordinator of Domestic Violence Programs at the Los
Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center: "While people may discriminate, domestic
violence does not. It happens in all types of families, including lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender ones."
LGBT Domestic Violence Found to be Common
The NCAVP report on domestic violence in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) communities, is the group's second. The 3,327 documented
cases of LGBT domestic violence were compiled by twelve of the community-based
programs which comprise NCAVP. Other findings include:
• The number of reports by men (52%) and women (48%) were essentially equal.
• The programs reporting serve a population of only 47 million, or less than 20% of the nation's population.
• Academic prevalence studies suggest that between 25% and 33% of all LGBT relationships involve abuse, the same rate of prevalence found in heterosexual relationships.
• Reporting was up 41% from 1996, indicating that awareness and willingness to seek help may be improving among LGBT battering victims.
• LGBT domestic violence still appears to be vastly under-reported, and
appropriate services in most locations are not available.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia have statutes which permit domestic violence victims to seek special protective orders. These orders are typically easy to obtain and provide the victim with important remedies, including ordering the abuser to stay away from the victim.
• Statutes in seven states explicitly define eligible petitioners as
couples thereby excluding same-sex victims.
• Statutes in three additional states are written so that a court could easily interpret them to limit protection to heterosexuals or to require acknowledgment of an illegal sexual relationship.
• Statutes in thirty-seven jurisdictions are written in gender-neutral terms; thus, same-sex petitioners would probably be considered but would be subject to the court's opinion.
• Statutes in four states explicitly include and affirm the rights of same-sex victims to seek domestic violence protective orders.
• Legal options other than domestic violence protective orders may be
available but are more difficult to obtain.
Domestic Violence Services Not Available, Not Accessible
• NCAVP Member organizations are likely to have only a single staff person responding to a service area of between two to three million persons. Several organizations serve an entire state and some an entire region of the country.
• Sources of assistance typically available to battered heterosexual women,
including police, battered women's programs, medical personnel, clergy, and
family members may hold prejudice against and/or be unresponsive to LGBT
domestic violence victims.
The NCAVP report calls for several actions:
• Widespread development of services designed to assist LGBT persons affected by domestic violence;
• Increased government and private funding devoted to service development;
• Aggressive community education to raise awareness of this issue;
• Lobbying efforts to amend state statutes so as to increase their inclusiveness or constitutional challenges to statutes which exclude;
• Training judicial and criminal justice personnel to apply and interpret
Formed in 1995, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) is a
coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victim advocacy and
documentation programs with approximately 25 member organizations. The group
also releases an annual report on hate violence in March.
# # # # # END # # # # #
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. THE PREVALENCE OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL TRANSGENDER
III. THE AVAILABILITY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS TO VICTIMS OF SAME-SEX DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
APPENDIX A: NCAVP Member Organization List
APPENDIX B: Restraining Order Availability By State (Chart)
APPENDIX C: NCAVP Member Survey Instrument
What is NCAVP?
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
is a coalition of 25 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victim advocacy and
documentation programs located throughout the United States (See Appendix A).
Before Officially forming in 1995, NCAVP members collaborated with one another
and with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) for over a decade to
create a coordinated response to violence against our communities. Since 1984,
members have released an annual report every March, promoting public education
about bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
people. As the prevalence of domestic violence in our community has emerged from
the shadows, NCAVP member organizations have increasingly adapted their missions
and their services to respond to violence within the community as well. The
first annual domestic violence report was released in October of 1997. This is
the second report and is released in conjunction with National Domestic Violence
Research Questions, Methods,
The purpose of this report is to investigate the
following research questions and to summarize our findings:
1) How prevalent is domestic violence among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people?
2) Do state statutes permit victims of same-sex domestic violence to obtain domestic violence protective orders?
The first question was selected because domestic
violence in this community is an ignored, even invisible phenomenon that most
people have never considered; the second, to determine whether or not equal
legal protection was available to sexual minority victims.
In answering these questions, we reviewed academic
literature on same-sex battering, conducted a survey of state domestic violence
statutes and significant, relevant case law, and conducted our own member
survey, described below.
Domestic violence encompasses a broad range of
relationships including but not limited to romantic partner abuse, abuse of
elders, abuse from an HIV caregiver or other caregiver, abuse of children,
siblings, parents, or other relatives, and abuse occurring in other intimate
relationships. For the purposes of this report, however, we limited the
definition of domestic to partnerships that were romantic in nature.
Similarly, domestic violence typically includes many
forms of abuse, often occurring simultaneously and in a pattern that escalates
over time. For the purposes of this report, abuse is defined as any
non-consensual behavior that causes another fear, causes another emotional,
financial, or physical harm, or restricts another's freedom, rights, or privacy.
Common forms of abuse include verbal abuse, including threats, emotional or
psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and
We surveyed the 12 NCAVP member organizations who
documented and responded to domestic violence in this community during calendar
year 1997 (members who only document hate violence or who had not begun domestic
violence services on or before January 1, 1997 were not included). Primarily, we
investigated the number of documented incidents in each member organization's
service area as well as the members' perceptions of the availability of
The survey instrument is attached in Appendix C.
Surveys were completed by the staff person or volunteer who coordinates domestic
violence services at each of the twelve member organizations.
Completed surveys were received from NCAVP members in
Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Little Rock,
AK; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; San Diego, CA; San
Francisco, CA; and St. Louis, MO. Four of these members included data from other
local sources with whom they collaborate, as follows: Boston, MA (The Network
for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and Safe Transitions of the Beth
Israel/Deaconess Medical Center); Los Angeles, CA (Alternatives to Violence/Long
Beach, Assistance League of Southern California/Hollywood, Beverly Hills
Counseling Int., YWCA Women's Service Center/Glendale, Project Pride, and
Options Counseling/Long Beach); San Diego, CA (The San Diego Police Department,
Domestic Violence Unit), and San Francisco, CA (The Asian Women's Shelter, the
San Francisco DA's Office Family Violence Project, the San Francisco Network for
Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and W.O.M.A.N., Inc.).
Contact information for all contributing members is
provided in Appendix A.
PREVALENCE OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER DOMESTIC
NCAVP Documented 3,327 Cases of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Domestic Violence in 1997
The twelve NCAVP member organizations which were
surveyed documented 3,327 cases of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
domestic violence during calendar year 1997. Of those incidents, 1,746 (52%)
were reported by men, and 1,581 (48%) by women. In total, 109 (3%) of these
persons identified as transgender,(1) 105
who identified as transgender women and 4 who identified as transgender men.
The services of the surveyed NCAVP member organizations are available to an
estimated 47 million persons, less than 20% of the nation's population.
The numbers of incidents documented by location are displayed in tabular
form (Table 1).
NUMBER OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, ANDTRANSGENDER VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DOCUMENTED BY NCAVP DURING 1997
Area Where NCAVP
Member is Located
|Los Angeles, CA(2)||560||343||903|
|San Francisco, CA(3)||451||440||891|
|New York, NY||236||185||421|
|San Diego, CA(4)||241||162||403|
|St. Louis, MO||4||9||13|
|Little Rock, AK||0||10||10|
The Number of Cases NCAVP documented during 1997
rose by 975 cases or 41% compared to 1996.
During calendar year 1996, a total of 2,352 cases were documented by NCAVP
compared to 3,327 during 1997, an increase of 975 cases or 41%. Of the twelve
locations, nine (75%) reported increases, two (22%) reported decreases, and one
(11%) stayed the same.
The percentages of increased or decreased reported cases are summarized in the following table (Table 2).
THE PERCENTAGE OF INCREASED OR DECREASED
REPORTING BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA FROM 1996 TO 1997
Area Where NCAVP
Member is Located
|Los Angeles, CA||253||891||+252%|
|San Francisco, CA||533||891||+67%|
|New York, NY||469||421||-10%|
|San Diego, CA||358||403||+13%|
|St. Louis, MO||4||13||+225%|
|Little Rock, AK||1||10||+900%|
Review of Prevalence Studies
Less than a dozen academic studies have examined the prevalence of battering
among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. All have focused on
lesbians and gay men, and most have not been published. Because these studies
are exploratory, tend to use small samples, and tend not to use random sampling
techniques, we can not draw firm conclusions from them. Taken together, however,
their findings suggest a domestic violence prevalence rate of between 25 and
33%, comparable to the findings on prevalence in heterosexual couples (Brand and
Kidd, 1986; Koss, 1990; Lockhart, White, Causby, and Isaac, 1994; Harms, 1995).
To humanize these statistics, we asked one survivor, Jennifer, to tell her
I met her at a party that a close friend hosted. She was intelligent,
beautiful, and had a wonderful sense of humor. Our relationship developed
rapidly and the closeness we shared was something I had never experienced
It is difficult to remember exactly when the abuse began because it was
subtle. She criticized me because she didn't like my cooking, and she
occasionally called me names when we argued. I didn't think much about it
because she had recently lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband because
of her sexual orientation and was angry, irritable, and depressed. She often
threatened suicide and attempted it during an argument that we had and then
blamed me for calling 911 for help.
Despite the stress she was experiencing, she was very supportive of me
when my family "disowned" me after I came out to them. When I bought
my first car without their assistance, she insisted I put it in her name.
Although we had periods of profound happiness, our arguments increased in
frequency as did her drinking and drug use. She was arrested once for possession
and driving under the influence. Several months later, she insisted that I
submit to drug testing in her place and threatened to tell my employer that I am
a lesbian when I resisted.
I kept telling myself things would get better but they never did. She
continually accused me of being unfaithful (I wasn't) and even once raped me
after claiming I had flirted with a supermarket cashier. The first time she hit
me I grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm to keep from being hit again. My
response frightened me so much I suggested we see a couple's counselor, and she
Couples counseling was not helpful, and although things felt worse, our
therapist said that was normal so we persevered. I began scrutinizing my own
behavior believing that if I could only do things better or differently, our
life together would improve.
It wasn't until she pulled a knife on me that I realized that it wasn't
going to change for the better . . . it was only going to get worse. I called a
crisis line and the counselor suggested that what I was experiencing was
domestic violence. That had actually never occurred to me because we are both
Leaving her was the hardest thing I have ever done. We have occasional
contact because my car is still in her name, and it is always very painful
because she continues to be verbally abusive. My family used the abuse to
justify their belief that lesbians are "sick." I have one friend who
has been supportive but I do not tell mutual friends because I don't want them
to abandon her.
It's still difficult to think of my situation as domestic violence but
with the help of my counselor and support group, I am learning that women can be
violent to other women, that anger, stress, depression, alcohol and drugs do not
cause violence, that violence is a choice the abuser makes, and finally, that I
am not to blame.
Jennifer's story is quite illustrative of the experiences of many battered
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. When the abuse began, it was
subtle and difficult to detect; over time, it grew into a pattern of many
different forms including verbally, psychologically, financially, sexually
abusive, threatening, and other controlling behaviors. Often the abuse and
stalking persists even after the victim has left the relationship.
The abuse is frequently difficult for the victim and others to recognize
because of the false but powerful belief that domestic violence only occurs
between men and women. In addition to staying in the relationship because they
do not recognize themselves as being battered, victims typically stay because
they love their partner, are blamed for the problems, blame themselves,
attribute the violence to situational factors, and hope for change.
Substance abuse and domestic violence frequently occur together as in
Jennifer's situation. While substance abuse can contribute to domestic violence
particularly by increasing the level of danger, it is not believed to be causal.
Like Jennifer, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of
domestic violence delay seeking assistance and experience barriers when doing
so. Her family's homophobic reaction of disowning her and blaming the violence
on her sexual orientation is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Similarly, since the
community is very small in most places, friends are likely to know both parties,
and victims may be reluctant to seek support from them.
Fortunately, Jennifer connected with a counselor and a support group that
were knowledgeable, supportive, and available, and greatly improved her
situation. Unfortunately, this part of Jennifer's experience is the exception.
Given that only 3,327 cases were reported in contrast to a suggested
prevalence rate of 25-33%, the number of documented cases of lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic violence would appear to be a tiny
proportion of the number of actual cases. This is likely to be true for
First, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic violence victims are
not likely to report what has happened to them. While domestic violence tends to
be under-reported by heterosexual couples as well, it may be even less likely to
be reported by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons if other factors
including ethnicity, immigration status, location, and income are held constant.
Because battering has been defined primarily as a heterosexual problem, many
community members do not recognize domestic violence even when it is happening
to them. Like Jennifer, many community members have internalized the belief that
domestic violence only occurs in heterosexual relationships. This belief is
further reinforced by domestic violence public education campaigns which assume
universal heterosexuality and exclusively address male-female relationships.
Even if domestic violence is recognized as the problem, there may literally
be no place for a battered lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person to seek
assistance. For the vast majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
victims in the United States, sensitive assistance is unavailable.
Although many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons would prefer to
seek services from providers in their own community, of the 25 member agencies
of NCAVP all of which offer services to hate violence victims, only 12 (48%)
offer services to domestic violence victims. Most of these are located in urban
areas and consist of a single staff person or volunteer who conduct outreach to
and respond to reports from a catchment area of two to three million people,
sometimes an entire state or region of the country. Since these members serve
only 20% of the nation's population, their services are not available to the
vast majority of people.
Overall, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender victims are extremely
reluctant to seek services traditionally accessed by battered heterosexual
women, including police, battered women's programs, medical professionals,
clergy, and family members. They often are fearful about encountering prejudices
such as homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia(6).
Anecdotal evidence indicates this fear is not irrational. For example,
responding police officers often fail to take the situation as seriously as they
would if the victim were a woman battered by a man; sometimes, they
inappropriately arrest the victim, especially if she or he is physically larger
or is perceived as "more masculine" than the assailant; worse yet,
police often make anti-gay comments and occasionally even perpetrate anti-gay
violence. Similarly, volunteers, staff, and other clients at battered women's
programs are likely to presume that all of the women seeking services are
heterosexual; they may respond less compassionately to a lesbian, bisexual, or
transgender battered woman.
Even if the responding officer, battered women's or other provider is not
prejudiced, they are often uneducated about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender domestic violence and unresponsive. Similarly, even well-intentioned
friends from the community may fail to recognize or respond to battering in
their peer group.
The finding of a 41% increase in reporting between 1996 and 1997 is
promising. Although a portion of that increase must be attributed to the fact
that the Los Angeles, CA member experienced a huge increase in reporting(7),
nine of the twelve programs experienced increases and only two(8)
experienced decreases. This suggests that services were more available and that
the willingness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims to seek
assistance increased between 1996 and 1997.
While these findings are significant in terms of what they suggest, they
should be interpreted cautiously. Because the data collection method used was
self-reporting, not random sampling, these findings, while suggestive, are not
generalizable. Secondly, self-reported data is extremely sensitive to the
staffing patterns of each NCAVP member. For example, it is no surprise that the
members with the most funding and staffing (i.e. Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco,
CA, and New York, NY) have reported the most cases; because these members have
more capacity to provide outreach and community education services, to take
reports, and to respond to victims, their number of reported cases are higher.
Finally, it must be reiterated that NCAVP members respond to geographic areas in
which only 20% of the nation's population resides. Thus, a full 80% of the
nation's population remains unaccounted for. Since NCAVP members are primarily
located in urban areas, rural areas are particularly underrepresented.
III. THE AVAILABILITY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS TO VICTIMS OF SAME-SEX DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
In the previous section, the spotlight was shone on the occurrence of
battering among sexual minorities, and it was suggested that resources were
frequently unavailable. In this section, we will explore the question of whether
or not legal remedies are as available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender victims as they are to their heterosexual counterparts.
Domestic violence laws were originally passed in response to awareness of a
problem often referred to as "wife battering." Women's groups and
others called for legislation designed to protect women victims of male abuse.
This view of domestic violence framed the responses of lawmakers and was
perpetuated through the resulting legislation. Even if the laws were written (or
later revised) in a gender-neutral framework, the gendered conception of
domestic violence became further entrenched in the application of the laws by
police, court personnel, attorneys, and judges. Simply removing personal
pronouns from a law does not ensure that it will be enforced beyond the gendered
frame of reference within which the law was created.
Every state and the District of Columbia has enacted some form of legislation
designed to address domestic violence. Orders of protection for victims of
domestic abuse are available in all fifty-one jurisdictions. Typically, statutes
allow "family and household members" to petition for protective
orders, but each state defines that term differently. Relationships of affinity
(by marriage, including in-law relationships) and consanguinity (by blood) are
generally protected. Other "household" relationships may or may not
include persons in romantic or sexual relationships, persons engaged in dating
relationships, or persons residing in the same household. Often, cohabitation is
required, which may be interpreted in a number of ways, including living
together with or without a sexual relationship, or living as spouses.
The availability of orders of protection - also called restraining orders,
no-contact orders, stay-away orders, and TROs (temporary restraining orders) -
depends on two things. First, laws must grant courts the authority to issue such
orders. Second, once laws are passed, police officers, judges, and others must
interpret, implement and enforce those laws. Our findings are confined to the
first necessary element: do laws exist which allow courts to issue restraining
orders in domestic violence situations where both the abuser and the batterer
are of the same sex?
Domestic Violence Orders Provide Important
Domestic violence protective orders are perhaps the most significant legal
remedy available to victims of abuse. Designed specifically to address violence
in family relationships, domestic abuse statutes grant judges broad authority to
restrain or direct the behavior of the abuser, regardless of whether criminal
charges have been filed. At their simplest, domestic violence orders direct the
abuser to refrain from abusing the victim, and usually to stay away from the
victim's home, school, or place of employment. Most laws allow judges to go far
beyond these simple steps.
A domestic violence restraining order may evict the abuser from the shared
household, often without regard to whose name is on the lease. The order may
restrict use of jointly owned property, such as cars, checkbooks, or keys. It
may require that the abuser pay temporary monetary support as well as child
support. The order may require that the abuser pay damages, such as medical,
dental, or counseling expenses, loss of earnings, cost of repair or replacement
of real property, moving expenses, and attorney fees. The abuser may be
prohibited from transferring, selling, or concealing property. He or she may
also be required to relinquish guns or other weapons. One significant protection
of a restraining order is that it usually authorizes or requires police to
arrest the abuser on the spot, without a warrant, for committing any of the acts
prohibited by the order. In most states, violating a protective order is a
The process for obtaining a domestic violence order is simpler than filing
other court actions. Often, a state will provide domestic violence advocates at
the courthouse or the district attorney's office will assist the victim
throughout the legal process. Clerks may be directed to provide assistance with
paperwork, and fill-in-the-blank forms are frequently available. Significantly,
filing fees are commonly waived for low-income victims, and often there are no
fees at all to petition for a domestic violence protective order.
For a victim of abuse by a partner of the same sex, these protections may not
be available. Laws written to address domestic violence from a heterosexual
perspective make it more difficult for a battered lesbian, gay man, bisexual or
transgender person to escape the cycle of abuse which is characteristic of
domestic violence. In order to leave a violent same-sex relationship, a person
may be forced to leave his or her home, give up access to jointly owned
property, absorb staggering financial losses, and terminate relationships with
children. Without a restraining order, a victim of same-sex abuse may be unable
to sustain employment or educational efforts if the abuser repeatedly contacts
the victim at school or work. The victim may also be wrongly arrested if the
police cannot rely on a protective order to determine the aggressor in a violent
situation. Without access to the support provided by protective orders, a victim
of same-sex abuse may feel compelled to remain in the abusive relationship, thus
prolonging the violence and risk to the victim's life.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Clearly
Unavailable for Victims of Same-Sex Abuse in Seven States
The laws in seven states which allow a victim to petition the court for an
order of protection are generally written to define eligible petitioners as
members of opposite-sex couples. These states include: Arizona, Delaware,
Louisiana, Montana, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.
In South Carolina, for example, the law protects family and household
members, but defines those terms to include marital and blood relationships,
persons who have a child in common, and "a male and female who are
cohabiting or formerly have cohabited." In New York state, domestic
violence orders are issued by family courts, which have jurisdiction in family
offense proceedings only over persons related by consanguinity or affinity,
persons legally married, persons formerly married, or persons who have a child
in common -- all categories which legally exclude same-sex relationships.
Montana protects "partners" but defines that term to include only
relationships between persons of the opposite sex. In Virginia, the domestic
violence statute protects persons who cohabit or who cohabited in the last
twelve months, but a 1994 Attorney General opinion defines "cohabit"
as persons living together as husband and wife, specifically excluding roommates
and members of lesbian and gay relationships from the class of persons protected
by the law.
Protective Orders Are Arguably Unavailable
for Victims of Same-Sex Abuse in Three States
The domestic violence statutes in three states are written so that a court
could easily interpret them to limit protection to heterosexuals, or to require
acknowledgment of an illegal sexual relationship when petitioning for
protection. These states include: Florida, Maryland, and Mississippi.
For example, Florida's statute protects persons "residing as a
family" and Mississippi protects persons "living as spouses." But
sodomy laws in both states criminalize homosexual acts and both states ban
same-sex marriage - legal policies which would support an argument that domestic
violence orders were not intended to protect same-sex couples. Maryland's
statute protects cohabitants, but defines cohabitant as "a person who has
had a sexual relationship with the respondent in the home" for a specific
period of time. Unfortunately, acknowledging a same-sex sexual relationship in
Maryland could leave the victim of abuse vulnerable to prosecution under the
state prohibition of "unnatural or perverted sex practices" commonly
known as a sodomy law.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders are Neutrally
Available to Victims of Same-Sex Abuse in Thirty-Seven Jurisdictions
In about two-thirds of the states (and in the District of Columbia), a victim
of same-sex abuse should be able to obtain an order of protection because the
laws in these jurisdictions are written in gender-neutral language. These
jurisdictions include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire,
New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont,
Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
In Colorado, for example, the law protects parties who have been involved in
an "intimate relationship" as well as parties who live or have lived
together. The District of Columbia protects those who share or have shared a
residence and persons who maintain or maintained a "romantic relationship
not necessarily including a sexual relationship." Idaho domestic violence
restraining orders are available to persons who reside or have resided together,
and the statute further provides that the law be "construed
liberally." Minnesota domestic violence laws apply to persons residing
together, or persons who are or have been in a "substantive dating or
engagement relationship" as determined by factors such as the duration and
type of relationship. North Dakota's law is one of the most liberal, allowing an
action for protection by any person "if the court determines that the
relationship between that person and the alleged abusing person is sufficient to
warrant the issuance of a domestic violence order." Texas protects current
and former household members, defining household as "a unit composed of
persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are
related to each other." Similarly, Wyoming protects "adults sharing
common living quarters." In December of 1997, North Carolina law was
broadened to include "former and current household members" which
should allow access to protective orders for at least some same-sex victims;
however, the statute also warns that such an order may not be used as a defense
for persons charged with the "crime against nature" prohibited by the
North Carolina sodomy law.
In any of these states, the availability of a protective order for an
individual victim of same-sex abuse will depend on a variety of factors
particular to the state and to the victim. Some states may protect roommates;
others do not. Some states protect persons who are dating; other states require
that the parties live together. Sexual relationships may define the protected
class, or a sexual relationship may be expressly irrelevant. However, the laws
in these states should be accessible by victims of same-sex abuse in the same
manner that they are available to victims of opposite-sex domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Affirmatively
Available Victims of Same-Sex Abuse in Four States
Only four states affirmatively make protective orders available to victims of
same-sex domestic violence. These states include: Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky,
Of these four states, only Hawaii law specifically addresses same-sex relationships, providing access to protective orders for "reciprocal beneficiaries." By registering for reciprocal beneficiary status, same-sex couples are granted many of the rights and obligations of legally married heterosexual couples - including protection under Hawaii domestic violence laws.
Laws in the other three states - Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio - are actually
written in gender-neutral terms, but courts in those states have interpreted the
statutes to apply to same-sex relationships. One Kentucky court has ruled that
the statutory term "unmarried couples" included same-sex couples.
Similarly, an Illinois court upheld one man's protective order against his male
abuser. In Ohio, at least three courts have found that a member of a same-sex
couple is a "person living as a spouse" for purposes of the domestic
Other Remedies May Be Available for Victims of
In addition to domestic violence protective orders, some state laws provide
other civil protection orders which apply to specific crimes such as harassment
and stalking. These orders may be limited in scope to ordering the restrained
person to stay away from the victim. The court probably will not be able to
evict an abuser from his or her home, or require an abuser to pay damages or
refrain from selling jointly owned property, and the victim may be required to
pay filing fees. Secondly, individuals may be able to obtain protective orders
if they pursue a criminal charges against their abuser which many victims are
reluctant to do. Finally, although cumbersome and difficult to obtain,
injunctions may be sought which can order the abuser to refrain from abuse.
Because of the complex interplay of the laws, a victim of domestic abuse
should consult a local attorney or domestic violence program for legal advice
and for current, accurate interpretations of local laws.
Refer to Appendix B for a chart which references each state's domestic
violence protection code, relevant language or restrictions, and other statutory
Victims of domestic violence are not uniformly provided with equal protection
of the laws. Despite the availability of domestic violence protective orders for
heterosexuals in all states, persons involved in abusive same-sex relationships
do not have unequivocal access to the same protective orders in the overwhelming
majority of states. In some of those states, victims of same-sex abuse are
explicitly excluded from protection of the laws. Even where laws are written in
gender-neutral language, judges, court personnel, attorneys and police officers
with no exposure to or training in same-sex domestic violence may not apply the
law in a neutral fashion.
Gendered notions of social roles are part of our national consciousness, and
they are intricately woven into the web of the law as heterosexual paradigms.
Coupled with heterosexist and homophobic laws which regulate or prohibit adult
sexual and marital relationships, these heterosexual paradigms are a powerful
barrier to equitable applications of domestic violence laws which might
otherwise be used for protection by victims of non-heterosexual relationship
Our laws enforce relationship norms. As a result, persons whose lives do not
fit those norms are often beyond the protection of the law. Victims of same-sex
abuse, unable to access the support necessary to escape violent relationships,
may remain in those relationships longer than their heterosexual counterparts.
The failure of our legal system to extend protections to victims of same-sex
abuse may mean that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are subject
to the dangerous behaviors of their abusers over a longer period of time than
are heterosexual victims who are able to enlist the support of the state.
Summary of Findings
Domestic violence among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons
appears to be a serious but under-reported problem.
In 1997, 3,327 cases were reported to NCAVP organizations which serve less
than 20% of the nation's population. Preliminary prevalence studies indicate
that between 25 and 33% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are
abused by their partners, comparable to the rate of domestic violence occurring
in heterosexual relationships.
The number of documented incidents increased by 41% over 1996, suggesting a
marked increase in the availability of services and the willingness of community
members to come forward. While this is promising, a dearth of available services
and significant obstacles to help-seeking make lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender battering victims extremely unlikely to report their victimization
or to seek assistance.
Our legal analysis indicates that even if these victims sought assistance,
some state laws as currently written do not allow for them to receive protection
under domestic violence statutes. Such statutes are available in all fifty
states and the District of Columbia and allow heterosexual domestic violence
victims to petition for domestic violence protective orders which provide them
with enhanced protection. Seven states explicitly exclude same-sex relationships
from qualifying. In three additional states, domestic violence protective orders
are arguably unavailable. In thirty-seven states, the statutes are written in
gender-neutral terms and are probably available to same-gender victims but are
still subject to judicial interpretation. In only four states, the orders are
affirmatively available. As a result of these barriers, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender victims may have a more difficult time appropriately protecting
Operating from the principle that our society believes domestic violence is
unacceptable including in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community
and operating from the principle that all individuals affected by battering,
regardless of sexual or gender orientation, should have equivalent access to
resources, we make the following recommendations:
• Develop Community-Based Services
Given the prevalence and seriousness of this problem, community-based
services must continue to be developed and expanded immediately. All local
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community agencies and traditional
domestic violence service providers should collaborate to develop and implement
services for victims and perpetrators of battering. It may be that such services
could be integrated into pre-existing programs or that new services need to be
• Increased Funding for Community-Based Services
In order for viable services to be developed, they must obviously be funded.
Federal, state, and local government as well as private foundations should
increase the amount of money available to fund domestic violence programs and
should earmark funds for programs that provide domestic violence services
specifically to this population.
• Conduct Aggressive Outreach and Community Education
Because this problem is under-recognized and until recently, was virtually
unnamed, aggressive community education and outreach campaigns which directly
target various segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community
must be planned and implemented. The goal of such campaigns should be to raise
community awareness, to increase willingness to seek assistance, and to change
community norms to oppose battering.
• Lobby for Legislative Change
State statutes should be changed to be explicitly gender-exclusive,
permitting and encouraging such victims to seek domestic violence protective
orders. Depending upon the state, this may require amending the domestic
violence statute, revising case law, and/or altering the Attorney General's
opinions. Statutes should define "domestic" in expansive terms so that
protection is provided to anyone who has had a dating or intimate relationship,
regardless of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or cohabitation. If
legislatures will not amend the laws, civil rights legal organizations should
challenge their constitutionality. Moreover, sodomy statutes need to be
• Train Judicial and Criminal Justice Personnel
Having non-heterosexist laws on the books while extremely valuable is rarely
sufficient. Judicial and criminal justice personnel, including prosecutors and
police, must be trained so that laws are applied and interpreted to protect to
all victims of domestic violence, regardless of their gender or the gender of
NCAVP would like to acknowledge the primary authors of
this report, Toni Broaddus and Gregory Merrill of Community United Against
Violence/San Francisco. Significant editorial contributions were also made by
Susan Holt of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, Gerardo Montemayor and
Toni Carrigan of Horizons/Chicago. Diane Dolan-Soto and Carl Locke of the New
York City Anti-Violence Project, Jose Pares-Avila and Emily Pitt of the Fenway
Community Health Center/Boston, Denise de Percin of Equality Colorado, and
Jennifer Rakowski, Lester Olmstead-Rose, and Jessica DuLong of Community United
In addition, the New York City Anti-Violence Project
provided valuable conference call services as concepts for this report were
being developed. Bert Green of Circle Elephant Art in San Francisco designed the
cover and the accompanying map. Heller, Ehrman, White, & McAuliffe of San
Francisco provided pro bono reproduction services.
Brand, P.A., & Kidd, A.H. (1986). Frequency of physical aggression in
heterosexual and female homosexual dyads. Psychological Reports, 59,
Harms, B. (1995). Domestic violence in the gay male community.
Unpublished master's thesis, San Francisco State University, Department of
Koss, M.P. (1990). The women's mental health research agenda: Violence
against women. American Psychologist, 45, 374-380.
Lockhart, L., White, B, Causby, V., & Isaac, A. (1994). Letting out the
secret: Violence in lesbian relationships. The Journal of Interpersonal
Violence, 9 (4), 469-492.
NCAVP MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS AND AFFILIATES
WHO CONTRIBUTED DATA TO THIS REPORT
NCAVP Member Organizations
Who Contributed Data
2224 Main St
Little Rock, AR 72206
Contact: Judy Matsuoka
Community United Against Violence
973 Market St #500
San Francisco, CA 94103
Contact: Greg Merrill (ext. 304)
Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center
S.T.O.P. Domestic Violence Program
1625 N. Shrader Blvd., Ste. 40
Los Angeles, CA 90028-6213
Contact: Susan Holt
Lesbian and Gay Men's Community Center
3916 Normal Street
San Diego, CA 92103
Contact: Domestic Violence Program
619/692-2077 ext. 805
Denver, CO 80203
Contact: Denise de Percin or Deryk Standring
303/839-5540 ext. 2
Horizons Community Services
961 W. Montana
Chicago, IL 60614
Contact: Toni Carrigan (ext. 224) or Gerardo Montemayor (ext. 254)
Fenway Community Health Center
Violence Recovery Program
7 Haviland St
Boston, MA 02115
Contact: Jose Pares-Avila or Emily Pitt
Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council
310 East 38th St, Ste 204
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Contact: Tommie Seidel (ext. 102)
St. Louis Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project
University of Missouri, Psychology Department
St. Louis, MO 63121
Contact: Suzanna Rose
New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
240 West 35th Street, Ste 200
New York, NY 10001-2506
Contact: Diane Dolan-Soto (ext. 24)
Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization
Columbus, OH 43202
Contact: Gloria McCauley
Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland
Cleveland, OH 44101
Contact: Curtis Proctor or Jen Kruger
Other Organizations (Non-NCAVP Members)
Who Contributed Data
Alternatives to Violence
3703 Long Beach Blvd, Ste E10
Long Beach, CA 90807
Contact: Alyce LaViolette
Asian Women's Shelter
3543 18th St #19
San Francisco, CA 94110
Contact: Joy Caneda
Assistance League of Southern California
1360 N. St. Andrew's Place
Hollywood, CA 90028
Contact: Frank Sermier
Beverly Hills Counseling Int
204 S. Beverly Dr #116
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Contact: Jim Gordan
Family Violence Project
San Francisco District Attorney's Office
850 Bryant St, Rm 320
San Francisco, CA 94102
Contact: Jeff Sheehy
3703 Long Beach Blvd E12
Long Beach, CA 90807
Contact: William Harris
6221 Wilshire Blvd #408
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Contact: Clare Lord
San Francisco Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women
3543 18th St #28
San Francisco, CA 94110
Contact: Maggie Paul
333 Valencia St, Ste 251
San Francisco, CA 94103
Contact: Robin Nickel
YWCA Women's Services Center
Domestic Violence Project
1007 S. Central, Ste 208
Glendale, CA 91204
Contact: Donna Cox
Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Ave, Rose 200
Boston, MA 02215
Contact: Lisa Tieszen Gary
The Network for Battered Lesbian and Bisexual Women
Boston, MA 02114
Contact: Beth Levanthal
617/695-0877 (voice, fax, tty)
Other NCAVP Organizations
Anti-Violence Project/Valley of the Sun
Gay and Lesbian Community Center
Phoenix, AZ 85067
Contact: Lyle Miller, Barb Jones
602/265-7283 (voice, fax)
The AVEC Anti-Violence Project of the Central Coast
Santa Barbara, CA 93102
Contact: Neil or Keith Coffman-Grey
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence
1511 K Street, NW, Ste 821
Washington, DC 20005
Gay and Lesbian Community Services of Central Florida
714 E. Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803
Contact: Lara Anderson
Lesbian and Gay Rights Chapter
American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
142 Mithcell St., SW, Ste 301
Atlanta, GA 30303
Contact: Jon Greaves
Gay and Lesbian Services Organization
Lexington, KY 40575
Contact: Jeff Jones
19641 West Seven Mile Road
Detroit, MI 48219
Contact: Jeffrey Montgomery
North Carolina Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality
(Contact information not available when this report went to print)
Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights
POB 5758, Weybosset Stn
Providence, RI 02903
Contact: Rodney Davis
LAMBDA GLBT Community Services/Anti-Violence Project
El Paso, TX 79931-0321
Contact: Rob Knight
Montrose Counseling Center
V.O.C.A. Grant Program
701 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77006
Contact: Melissa Martin
Salt Lake City, UT 84070
Virginians for Justice
POB 342, Capitol Stn
Richmond, VA 23202
Contact: Shirley Lesser
NCAVP MEMBER ORGANIZATION SURVEY INSTRUMENT
National Domestic Violence Report
General Instructions: The information collected
by this instrument will be to compile our second annual national report on
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Domestic Violence. There are five
sections, as follows: 1) contact information for your project; 2) tallies for
the number of LGBT persons reporting domestic violence during calendar year
1997; 3) availability of services; 4) perceptions of helpfulness of domestic
violence restraining orders; and 5) contact information for providers other than
your project who have contributed statistical data.
The Domestic Violence Program Coordinator at your
agency should complete this survey. Please read the instructions for each
question carefully. If you have questions, please telephone Greg Merrill at
415/777-5500 ext. 304. All surveys are due by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on
Monday, August 31, 1998.
I. Anti-Violence Project Contact Information
Please answer all questions, even if the information
has not changed.
1. Agency's Name:
2. Anti-Violence Project's
Name (if different):
3. Mailing Address:
4. Business Number:
5. Fax Number: _____________________________________
6. E-mail Address:
7. Crisis Number:
8. Contact Person or Persons
9. Contact Person's
10. Name of Person
11. Please describe the region you serve, including
the name of cities, counties, state or states that you consider in your intended
12. Please describe the total population of all
persons living in your intended service area (for example, if you serve
Annapolis and outlying suburbs, list the total estimated population for these
areas; or if you serve the entire state of New Hampshire, include the estimate
of the entire state's population). Do not leave blank.
II. Reported Cases of LGBT Domestic Violence
Victimization for 1997
We need the documented, unduplicated number of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cases of domestic violence victimization
in your intended service area during calendar year 1997 (January 1, 1997 -
December 31, 1997). For purposes of this report, we are defining domestic
violence as a pattern of emotional, physical, financial, and/or sexual abuse
occurring in the context of a romantic relationship.
In addition to reporting data documented from your
project, you may also include data from other service providers in your service
area or from your local police department and/or district attorney's office. If
you include data from other sources, however, measures must be taken to prevent
double-counting (for example, a client should be counted only by the provider to
whom they presented first and not by subsequent providers). You must also
provide contact information for the other sources in Section V.
13) Total number of Reported Cases of Lesbian,
Bisexual, and Transgendered Female Domestic Violence During Calendar Year 1997:
14) Number of Females in Question 13 Who Identified as
15) Total Number of Reported Cases of Gay, Bisexual,
and Transgendered Male Domestic Violence During Calendar Year 1997:
16) Number of Males in Question 15 Who Identified as
17) Total Number of Reported Cases of Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgendered Domestic Violence During Calendar Year 1997 (i.e. add
Totals for 13 and 15):
III. Availability of Services
18. Below is a list of domestic violence victim
services generally available. Please indicate whether each service is available
in your area, either by your project or another domestic violence provider, to
persons of each of five different categories: heterosexual women;
lesbian/bisexual women; transgendered women; gay/bisexual men; and transgendered
men. Place a "Y" for yes if they are available; an "N" for
no if they are not available; or a "U" if unknown. For example, if a
battered women's shelter in your area will only accept heterosexual and
lesbian/bisexual women, then place Y's in the first two columns and N's in the
Type of Victim: Het Wom L/B Wom TG Wom G/B Men TG Men
Type of Service:
24 hour crisis line _____ _____ _____
In-person Counseling _____ _____ _____
Support Groups _____ _____ _____ _____
Advocacy _____ _____ _____ _____ _____
Restraining Orders _____ _____ _____
Emergency Shelter _____ _____ _____
Perpetrator Treatment _____ _____
_____ _____ _____
IV. Perceptions About Helpfulness of DV Restraining
19. In your opinion, how helpful are domestic violence
restraining orders in deterring batterers from harassing LGBT domestic violence
victims? Check one.
___ Makes the abuse worse
___ Does not help at all
___ Varies greatly/depends
___ Somewhat helpful
___ Extremely helpful
___ Do not know
20. Are courts in your area likely to grant domestic
violence restraining orders to petitioning LGBT domestic violence victims? Check
___ Extremely unlikely
___ Somewhat unlikely
___ Varies greatly/depends
___ Somewhat likely
___ Extremely likely
___ Do not know
21. In your experience, how helpful are domestic
violence restraining orders in terms of improving the response of law
enforcement to LGBT victims of domestic violence. Check one.
____ Makes things worse
____ Does not help at all
____ Varies greatly/depends
____ Helps Somewhat
____ Extremely Helpful
____ Do not know
If you used outside sources of information for
reporting LGBT domestic violence cases in Section II, then please complete
Section V. Please return this survey immediately to:
Community United Against Violence
973 Market Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94103
Voice 415/777-5500 ext. 304.
All Surveys are due by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on
Monday, August 31, 1998.
V. Contact Information for Other Sources Reporting
If you used outside sources of information in Section
II, please provide the following contact information for each of those sources:
1. Agency's Name:
2. Domestic Violence Project's
Name (if different):
3. Mailing Address:
4. Business Number:
5. Fax Number: _____________________________________
6. E-mail Address:
7. Crisis Number:
8. Contact Person or Persons
9. Contact Person's
10. Name of Person Who
Compiled Data: _____________________________________
1 "Transgender" is an umbrella term that refers to persons who have a gender identity different from the one assigned to them at birth. This term includes but is not limited to: male-to-female transsexuals, also known as "MTFs," who are referred to here as "transgender women;" female-to-male transsexuals, also known as "FTMs," who are referred to here as "transgender men;" and intersexed persons who were born with "ambiguous genitalia" who are referred to as transgender men or women depending upon how they identify. Since gender orientation is different from sexual orientation, transgender people can be bisexual, lesbian or gay, or heterosexual.
2 Also includes data collected by Alternatives to Violence/Long Beach, Assistance League of Southern California/Hollywood, Beverly Hills Counseling Int., YWCA Women's Service Center/Glendale, Project Pride, and Options Counseling/Long Beach.
3 Also includes data collected by the Asian Women's Shelter, the San Francisco DA's Office Family Violence Project, the San Francisco Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and W.O.M.A.N., Inc.
4 Also includes data collected by the San Diego Police Department, Domestic Violence Unit.
5 Also includes data collected by The Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and Safe Transitions of the Beth Israel/Deaconess Medical Center.
6 Homophobia refers to the irrational fear or hatred of gay men and lesbians; biphobia, of bisexual people; transphobia, of transgender people.
7This enormous increase can be attributed to consistent year-long staffing in 1997, to the implementation of domestic violence screening procedures for clients accessing the agency's health and mental health services, and to a much lesser extent, to the additional inclusion of secondary reporting sources noted in footnote 2.
8Chicago, IL attributes their decrease in reporting to a loss of outreach funds; New York, NY to inconsistent staffing patterns that have been remedied. Neither believed that the magnitude of the problem in their area had decreased.