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This chapter argues for the need to make victimised lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGB and/or T) people visible within discussions of eligibility for ideal victim status. In considering two examples of victimisation the authors consider why LGB and/or T people can more easily access an ideal victim status when victimised by hate than is possible for those victimised by (or enacting) DVA. The contrasting examples demonstrate that LGB and/or T individuals’ status as ideal victims (or offenders) is tenuous and dependent on the type of victimisation experienced. In both cases, the importance of raising awareness, countering victim-blaming and building trust and accessibility of support services is critical to improve responses to LGB and/or T people.

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What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence

This book provides the first detailed discussion of domestic violence and abuse in same sex relationships, offering a unique comparison between this and domestic violence and abuse experienced by heterosexual women and men. It examines how experiences of domestic violence and abuse may be shaped by gender, sexuality and age, including whether and how victims/survivors seek help, and asks, what’s love got to do with it?

A pioneering methodology, using both quantitative and qualitative research, provides a reliable and valid approach that challenges the heteronormative model in domestic violence research, policy and practice. The authors develops a new framework of analysis – practices of love – to explore empirical data.

Outlining the implications of the research for practice and service development, the book will be of interest to policy makers and practitioners in the field of domestic violence, especially those who provide services for sexual minorities, as well as students and academics interested in issues of domestic and interpersonal violence.

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This chapter introduces the theoretical and multi-method approach taken in the book and COHSAR research on which it is based. There is a discussion about the public story of DVA, which presents this as a heterosexual problem of, primarily, physical violence, and its implications for identifying and recognising DVA in same sex relationships both by victim/survivors and practitioners/ professionals. The two main approaches used in this book to understand DVA across sexuality and gender are introduced: the feminist notion of power and control, looked at through the lenses of positionality and intersectionality; and practices of love, that enable power over and control of intimate partners. Representative surveys increasingly involve both heterosexual and same sex identities, but it is not always clear what context, including the relationship, the DVA took place in. The multi-method research reported in this book address these issues and enable comparison across both gender and sexuality.

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This chapter outlines the development of the COHSAR survey questionnaire and interview schedule. It explains the feminist epistemological approach used to design the survey and to explore how processes of gendering and power might operate in similar or different ways in abusive female and male same sex or heterosexual relationships. Combined with interviews this allowed exploration of the intersection of gender, sexuality, ‘race’, ethnicity, age, disability, class, income and education. A national community survey was used, as a representative approach was not possible in the UK. The survey, asked those in same sex relationships about experiences and perpetration of violence and abuse as well as impacts and motives for using them. The interview schedule was based around an exploration of a best and a worst relationship experience in same sex and/or heterosexual relationships. The demographic profiles of the final data set of 746 survey and 67 interview respondents are given.

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This chapter discusses the implications of the heterosexual assumption for LGBTQ people generally and specifically in relation to DVA. The trend within LGBTQ communities for a human rights approach to equality is discussed and illustrated with findings from the COHSAR survey where most believed the experience and impact of DVA to be the same across sexuality. The notion of minority stress as a factor in same sex DVA is problematised. Evidence is presented that the heterosexual assumption can result in identity abuse within same sex (and trans) relationships. An exploration follows of the particular vulnerabilities to experiencing DVA faced by those in first same sex relationships, regardless of age. It is argued that it is the intersectional positioning of LGBTQ people as outside the heteronorm that create unequal knowledge and skills about and experiences of intimacy and inhibit the recognition of DVA in same sex relationships.

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This chapter considers key findings from the COHSAR UK-wide survey. Over a third of respondents said they had experienced DVA ever in a same sex relationship and more had experienced at least one form of potentially DVA behaviour from same sex partners. Similarities and differences across the LGBTQ sample are discussed. Similarities included the range of abusive behaviours experienced by, and impacts on, respondents. Differences included men being significantly more likely to experience physically and sexually abusive behaviours, but impact of sexual abuse on women was greater. Risk factors for potential abuse and heightened impact included younger age, lower income levels and lower educational attainment, and were more marked than gender, and the positioning of individuals by intersection of a number of factors helped to explain vulnerability to DVA. Findings suggest that violence and abuse in same sex relationships is characterised by power and control and not by mutual abuse.

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This chapter discusses how practices of love are implicated in relationships characterised by DVA and how these practices of love reflect and interact with dominant ideas, expectations and beliefs about heterosexual intimacy. Evidence suggests that two relationship rules operate in DVA relationships: the relationship is for the abusive partner and on their terms; the victim/survivor is responsible for the care of the abusive partner, and the relationship. These rules reflect heteronormative ideas about gender: masculinity associated with setting the terms for relationship and femininity associated with caring. Rules are established through practices of love enacted by both partners in ways that confuse recognition of DVA. Thus abusive partners enact behaviours associated with both masculinity (making key decisions) and femininity (expressing need and neediness); and victim/survivors enact behaviours associated with femininity (providing care and nurture) and masculinity (being responsible for the abusive partner/relationship and feeling emotionally stronger.

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This chapter argues that socio-cultural factors, including the impact of the public story of DVA and practices of love, explain why so few LGBTQ victim/survivors seek formal sources of help. Important differences in help-seeking were found between same sex and heterosexual contexts of DVA, and by gender in relation to same sex DVA. The legacy of the heterosexual assumption is that LGBTQ people expect to be self-reliant and/or to draw on informal and private sector sources of help. Counsellors and therapists were the most popular formal source of support for victim/survivors in same sex relationships. Gay men were more likely to access health services. Generally there is a gap of trust between victim/survivors of DVA and mainstream agencies wherein the former do not expect a positive response from the latter. The small minority who reported to the police did so because they experienced an escalation in the DVA against them.

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This chapter summarises the key findings from the study and presents a new version of the Duluth Power and Control Wheel, the COHSAR Wheel, as a tool for working with victim/survivors and perpetrators of DVA in both same sex and heterosexual relationships. The COHSAR Wheel includes relationship rules (at the hub of the wheel surrounded by power and control), intersecting identities (at the rim) and practices of love (in a concentric circle inside the rim). Physical and sexual violence are moved from their position on the rim of the Duluth Wheel to being spokes. Identity abuse is also added as a spoke. Recommendations are made for raising awareness amongst LGBTQ communities and for training amongst mainstream and specialist DVA agencies about DVA in same sex and/or trans relationships.

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Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) affects many LGB and/or T+ people’s relationships, yet victims/survivors rarely seek help from the police or specialist DVA support services. This chapter reports on findings from the ‘Coral Project’, which focused on LGB and/or T+ people’s use of abusive behaviours. Focus groups were conducted with practitioners in what we term ‘relationships services’, working directly or indirectly supporting people with their intimate relationships. The analysis revealed varying conceptualisations of DVA in different practice cultures and an unmet need for support for DVA which falls below the threshold for criminal justice or specialist DVA service intervention. We conclude with recommendations for providing more inclusive and accessible relationships services.

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