199795 Invisible at Every Turn: Examination of Lesbian Intimate Partner Violence

Monday, November 9, 2009: 5:10 PM

Mikel Walters, PhD , National Center for Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Although scholars have been studying domestic violence for four decades now, it is only recently that domestic violence occurring in non-heterosexual relationships has received attention. The purpose of this study is to explore the interconnections between the experiences of survivors of lesbian intimate partner violence (IPV), the lesbian communities' beliefs regarding IPV, and available shelter services. The ultimate goal of this project is to describe how the experiences and practices of all three ultimately affect survivors of lesbian IPV. To accomplish this, members of the lesbian community were asked to complete an on-line survey, and qualitative interviews were conducted with both shelter employees and lesbian IPV survivors. While more than 50% of lesbians completing the online survey reported experiencing IPV in a lesbian relationship, most agreed that lesbian IPV was ignored in lesbian communities. Lesbians also agreed that survivors would not seek help from local DV shelters or police, but did believe there were appropriate services available in their area. DV shelters reported allowing lesbian survivors to access their heterosexually focused services, but offered no services specifically addressing the unique needs of lesbian survivors. Lesbian survivors reported feeling isolated, trapped and helpless due to the lack of acknowledgement and support in their communities and scarcity of available services. The findings of this study suggest that IPV is common in lesbian relationships. Despite this finding, denial in the lesbian community and the lack of appropriate shelter services continue the isolation and marginalization of lesbian survivors.

Learning Objectives:
Describe and define the challenges faced by lesbian survivors of intimate partner violence.

Keywords: Domestic Violence, Lesbian

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student presenting my dissertation research. I have been studying lesbian IPV for 3 years. I am also a CDC research fellow in the Division of Violence Prevention.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.