Same-Sex Domestic Violence: Strategies for Change


Edited by: Beth Leventhal & Sandra E. Lundy

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Prologue: Hearing the Problem

    Part II: Legal Perspectives

    Part III: Organizing Coalitions/Building Communities

    Part IV: Providing Services

  • Sage Series on Violence Against Women

    Series Editors

    Claire M. Renzetti

    St. Joseph's University

    Jeffrey L. Edleson

    University of Minnesota

    In this series …

    I AM NOT YOUR VICTIM: Anatomy of Domestic Violence by Beth Sipe and Evelyn J. Hall

    WIFE RAPE: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers by Raquel Kennedy Bergen


    WOMEN'S ENCOUNTERS WITH VIOLENCE: Australian Experiences edited by Sandy Cook and Judith Bessant

    WOMAN ABUSE ON CAMPUS: Results From the Canadian National Survey by Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz



    SAFETY PLANNING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices by Jill Davies, Eleanor Lyon, and Diane Monti-Catania

    RETHINKING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN edited by R. Emerson Dobash and Russell P. Dobash

    EMPOWERING SURVIVORS OF ABUSE: Health Care for Battered Women and Their Children edited by Jacquelyn Campbell

    BATTERED WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND WELFARE REFORM: The Ties That Bind edited by Ruth A. Brandwein

    CHANGING VIOLENT MEN by R. Emerson Dobash, Russell P. Dobash, Kate Cavanagh, and Ruth Lewis

    COORDINATING COMMUNITY RESPONSES TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Lessons From Duluth and Beyond edited by Melanie F. Shepard and Ellen L. Pence

    SAME-SEX DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Strategies for Change edited by Beth Leventhal and Sandra E. Lundy


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    In the 25 or so years of its existence, the battered women's movement has done a wonderful job of bringing the issue of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships to the forefront of public attention. Not long ago there were only a handful of battered women's shelters, arcane laws that sanctioned intrafamily violence, and widespread victim-blaming of those survivors who dared to speak out. Although no one would claim that the problem of heterosexual violence is perfectly understood, the fact remains that we now have a vibrant shelter network, powerful state and national domestic violence coalitions, and even federal laws against spouse abuse. Presentations about dating violence are offered in high schools, courses in violence against women can be found at colleges and graduate schools nationwide, and many police departments and police academies have incorporated training about domestic violence into their standard curricula.

    Those of us who have survived or worked with survivors of queer partner abuse, however, have not been quite as fortunate. We often have met with hostility not only in the general public, the mental health professions, and the courts but also within domestic violence organizations and our own queer communities. We have had to shout to be heard. Like poor relatives at a banquet, we have been given scraps of attention and bits and pieces of available resources and have been told we should be grateful. The queer communities have been treated as a monolith, and when the issue of queer domestic violence has been addressed at all, it has generally been in “one size fits all” terms that ignore and disrespect our diversity.

    There are signs that things are slowly changing. In recent years, thanks to the tireless efforts of queer activists and survivors who simply would not shut up and go away, many state domestic violence laws have been amended to include victims of same-sex partner abuse. Mental health and community organizations (both queer and straight) are beginning to take the problem of same-sex domestic violence seriously. Most hearteningly, grassroots activists have done an impressive amount of creative work to address issues of queer domestic violence. This book presents some of those efforts in the hope of inspiring more.

    Currently, people looking for practical strategies to address same-sex domestic violence find themselves in an informational vacuum. The few available books and articles on queer domestic violence focus primarily on convincing the reader that queer domestic violence exists and that “something” should be done about it. And very little of the work on queer domestic violence has addressed the specific needs of specific queer communities. Thus, the activist, the organizer, the practitioner, and the survivor are constantly reinventing the wheel as they search for antiviolence strategies that fit their unique contexts.

    Both of us have worked with survivors of queer domestic violence for many years: Beth as an activist and advocate; Sandy as an activist and attorney. We have initiated and participated in police and court trainings, spoken at schools and to the media, lobbied, and organized. We know firsthand about the dearth of written material to provide guidance and inspiration.

    We think it is time to go beyond “Queer Domestic Violence 101” and to offer a book that presents concrete strategies for assessing and stopping the violence in abusive queer relationships. We have compiled a broad range of essays on a variety of issues concerning queer domestic violence. Some of the chapters deal with specific communities (bisexuals, people with AIDS, immigrants), some focus on specific issues (batterer screening, S/M), and some are more general. We have also included the individual stories of survivors. What all of these essays have in common is that they were written by people who have been working on issues of queer domestic violence for many years and who have a wealth of experience to share. We have tried to represent many different queer communities and present a number of different viewpoints. Unlike previous works, which tend to focus either on lesbians or gay men (ignoring bisexuals and transgendered people entirely), we address both woman-to-woman and man-to-man violence. We have also included chapters that address issues of batterer assessment and batterer accountability, two topics that are almost totally ignored in work on queer domestic violence.

    Our goal is to provide comprehensive, practical information to the wide range of professionals, lay advocates, and activists who are likely to come into contact with queer people in abusive intimate relationships. We hope to encourage people to address the multifaceted issue of queer domestic violence not only on the individual level but also on the societal level. If you are looking for a book to convince you that queer domestic violence exists and should be taken seriously, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in effectively addressing the serious issue of queer domestic violence, then you will find a lot of information here to help you do your work.

    It would have been impossible for us to compile this edition, or for the individual authors to contribute, if we did not all believe in the possibility of change and in progress. We like to think of this not as a book about violence but a book about working through violence in order to promote healthier relationships in our queer communities and beyond. As queer people begin to demand legal recognition of our partnerships, strengthening our commitments to each other becomes an increasingly important endeavor. Although domestic violence may seem like a dreary topic, we believe the contributors to this book offer fresh and hopeful perspectives that are a source of inspiration, not sadness.

    Each of us has many people to thank for making this book possible. To list them all would catapult us way over our allotted page limit. Debra Reid has been a steady inspiration to both of us—a model of lesbian courage and survival. The indefatigable Claire Renzetti has been, as always, extremely generous with her support, her time, and her insights and was instrumental in bringing this work to press. The members of Boston's Same-Sex Domestic Violence Coalition, the Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project are a source of encouragement, good humor, and solidarity. We thank all of the contributors not only for their informative chapters but also for their patience. Sandy would like to give special thanks to Claire Lundy, Kate Lundy, Ellen Rotters-mann, Meredith Rottersmann, Rhea Becker, Heidi Holland, and Anna Baum. Beth would like to give special thanks to Hermine Leventhal, Deirdre Hunter, and the members of the Network's support group.

  • About the Contributors

    Advocates for Abused & Battered Lesbians (AABL) was founded in 1987 by lesbians for lesbian victims of domestic violence. Today AABL's staff of two provide assessment and intake, individual counseling, legal advocacy, and support groups for lesbians who have been or currently are in an abusive relationship. Additionally AABL conducts outreach and education to lesbians, domestic violence service providers, and social service agencies regarding lesbian battering/abuse and antihomophobia.

    Charlene Allen has been working to end violence against women for more than a decade. She has provided training on domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the nation, reaching members of the judiciary, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, private individuals, and diverse organizations. She was a contributing author and member of the editorial board of For Shelter and Beyond, a nationally distributed training manual for domestic violence advocates. She also wrote “Defending Women in the 21st Century,” a training curriculum for domestic violence legal advocates in Massachusetts. She now holds the position of Executive Director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, where her mission includes integrating services for sexual assault survivors who are also survivors of domestic violence.

    Bradley-Angle House believes that everyone has the right to be safe from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and the threat of violence. Its mission is to end violence while simultaneously working to end all oppressive behaviors. Rather than judging what is right or wrong, the staff at Bradley-Angle House help women and their children who are emotionally or physically abused to make informed choices about their lives. They educate the community about domestic violence, its causes, and its consequences, and they encourage the community to help prevent abuse by making changes in the conditions that make it happen.

    Andrea Cabral is an Assistant District Attorney and the Chief of the Domestic Violence Unit of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. In addition to maintaining her own domestic violence caseload in superior court, she supervises a superior court staff of 8 and a district court staff of 9. She is also author of the book Obtaining, Enforcing and Defending 209A Restraining Orders in Massachusetts, published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. in July 1997. Prior to this position, she was an Assistant Attorney General in the Trial and Civil Rights Divisions of the Attorney General's Office from 1991 to 1993 and an Assistant District Attorney in the Cambridge Division of the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office from 1987 to 1991. She is a graduate of Boston College and Suffolk University Law School.

    Susan Cayouette is the Clinical Director at Emerge: Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence, located in Cambridge, MA. She has worked in the battered women's movement for 15 years and has spent the past 10 years at Emerge. She received a doctorate in education at Boston University and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Currently she is the Co-Chair of the Same-Sex Domestic Violence Coalition in Massachusetts and co-leads a group for lesbian batterers.

    Diane Coffey is the Deputy Chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Program of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. Her responsibilities include the coordination of victim services in the Domestic Violence Unit. She develops protocols and policies, supervises victim witness advocates and coordinates trainings and outreach efforts. Prior to her current position, she worked as a victim witness advocate in the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office. Throughout her career, Diane has provided practical training to police, prosecutors, advocates, and community members.

    Evan Fray-Witzer is an attorney in private practice in Boston, MA. A graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, he worked as a student intern with the Middlesex District Attorney's Abuse Prevention Unit and as a legal advocate for Casa Myrna Vazquez, a Boston shelter for battered women. His writing on domestic violence in lesbian relationships has been used by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, the New Hampshire Bar Association, and Northeastern University's Domestic Violence Advocacy Project.

    Martha Lucía García is a Colombian woman who has been working on domestic violence issues since 1983. A formerly battered woman and a lesbian, she is currently a therapist working with immigrant women and women of color and also does organizational consultant work.

    Alma Banda Goddard is the Director of Advocates for Abused & Battered Lesbians (AABL) located in Seattle, Washington. She has been working in the battered women's movement for the past eight years. She has been with AABL for three and one-half years and has also served as the community advocate providing direct services for survivors. Chicana/Rocky Mountain Indian, single mom, dyke, survivor, activist, she believes that we must find common ground and fight all forms of oppression and that each individual must move forward to identify and eliminate his or her own internalized oppressions and to find and embrace the essence of personal power and self-love.

    Jennifer Grant has been a part of the battered women's movement since 1985. She is currently Director of the Riley Center: Services for Battered Women and their Children in San Francisco. She is a founding member of the San Francisco Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women.

    Bea Hanson is a social worker, community organizer, and activist. She is Director of Client Services at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, which provides counseling and advocacy to over 1,600 survivors of anti-gay/lesbian bias crime, same-sex domestic violence, sexual assault, and HIV/AIDS-related violence every year. She is also Adjunct Professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in New York City.

    Tara Hardy is the Community Advocate for Abused & Battered Lesbians. She has been an anti-violence activist for the past 10 years and she is a survivor of lesbian battering. She believes that the most challenging issue about addressing violence in lesbian relationships is that it suggests that women must examine our own behaviors and realize that our femaleness no longer provides us with impunity.

    Robb Johnson has been a victim advocate with the Violence Recovery Program of Fenway Community Health Center in Boston. He received a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan in 1988 and has since worked on health issues of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) people. The Violence Recovery Program, founded in 1986, provides counseling and advocacy to GLBT survivors of hate crime, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violence. Johnson co-facilitated New England's first domestic violence support group for gay and bisexual men at the Violence Recovery Program in 1995.

    KJ is an Alaskan Native woman, born and raised in Alaska. She has advocated for women and children who have the right to be safe. She is also active in the Native Sobriety movement and has been clean and sober for several years. She also does trainings on anti-oppression work.

    Patrick Letellier is a counselor and a freelance writer and editor. He has written and edited numerous articles and manuals on domestic violence and is coauthor of the first book on same-sex male battering, Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them. At Community United Against Violence in San Francisco he counsels gay, bisexual, and transgendered men who have been battered and/or sexually assaulted. He is a survivor of same-sex battering.

    Beth Leventhal, a formerly battered lesbian, has worked in the battered women's movement since 1986. She is the founder and Coordinator of the Network for Battered Lesbians & Bisexual Women. She is a founding member of Boston's Same-Sex Domestic Violence Coalition, and has served on the Boards of the Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups, Emerge, and the Massachusetts Older Women and Domestic Violence Prevention Project. She wrote and produced the audio program “Voices of Battered Lesbians” and provides training and technical assistance on same-sex domestic violence to legal and health care providers, battered women's programs, and GLBT groups.

    Sandra E. Lundy is an attorney and writer living in the Boston area. As a solo practitioner, she specializes in family law for straight and queer families, with an emphasis on assisting victims of domestic violence. She has written and lectured widely and on the topic of same-sex domestic violence, and has conducted trainings on the topic for police departments, lawyers, health care providers, and judges. She has represented many victims of same-sex domestic violence, including Debra Reid, a battered lesbian and member of the Massachusetts “Framingham Eight” who sought commutation of her prison sentence for killing her abusive partner. Her poetry, short stories and review have appeared in many queer and arts publications. She obtained her Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School.

    Jennifer Margulies is a Smith College Women's Studies alumna living in Austin, Texas, where she is grateful for her partner Jackie, her dog Chula, the Texas sky, and all the friends who teach her about risk, safety, and love.

    Terry Maroney graduated from Oberlin College in 1989 and is currently a student at New York University School of Law, where she is a Root-Tilden-Snow Public Interest Scholar. Formerly the HIV-Related Violence Program Coordinator at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, she has also worked at the NENA Health Center in New York's Lower East Side and at the Workplace Project, a center for Latino/a immigrant workers on Long Island. She serves as a law clerk for the Honorable Amalya L. Kearse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Prior publications include “Psicología de la Oprimida: Un Estudio Psicosocial de dos Refugiadas Salvadoreñas en Costa Rica,” Estudios Centroamericanos 480 (octubre 1988), pp. 911–925.

    Gregory S. Merrill is a summa cum laude graduate of Bowdoin College who recently received his master's degree in social work from San Francisco State University. For his master's thesis, he conducted an exploratory study of the experiences of battered gay and bisexual men. The Director of Client Services at Community United Against Violence (CUAV) in San Francisco, he has also volunteered extensively for the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) as a group facilitator and trainer.

    Curt Rogers, a formerly battered gay man, is founder of the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project, P.O. Box 9183 #131, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139. The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project is currently working to provide services to gay male victims of domestic violence with a primary emphasis on establishing a safe-home network. He was also founding Secretary for the Same-Sex Domestic Violence Coalition, Boston, MA.

    Ann Russo is a lesbian activist, writer, and educator who is currently an assistant professor of Women's Studies at DePaul University. She is coeditor of Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism and has written articles on feminist, lesbian, and antiracist politics in relation to violence against women for a variety of journals, including Sojourner, Women's Review of Books, and Women's Studies International.

    The San Francisco Network for Battered Lesbians & Bisexual Women was formed in October 1992. It provides information and referrals for survivors and for service providers and community organizers. The Network facilitates a weekly support group for survivors of woman-to-woman battering and also makes educational presentations about this issue. It is an all-volunteer collective with a nonprofit fiscal sponsor.

    Tonja Santos is a recent graduate of a small all-women's liberal arts college. She has interned at both the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Washington, D.C. and the Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women in Boston. She hopes to one day integrate her work in sexual assault and battering into a career as a medical doctor.

    Sarah Sulis is the pseudonym for a woman who is the director of a statewide domestic violence coalition. She has worked previously as a sexuality educator, women's health counselor, and director of a domestic and sexual violence center. In 1992, she organized the first bisexual delegation to the Gay Pride march in her small southern town and has facilitated bisexual women's groups.

    José Toro-Alfonso is a clinical psychologist and Executive Director of Fundacíon SIDA in Puerto Rico. Communication can be addressed to him at P.O. Box 36-4842, San Juan, PR 00936-4842. He wishes to express his gratitude to the Prevention Department at Fundacion SIDA and to its director, Maria Isabel Báez, for their support in the domestic violence project. Funding for this work was also provided by the National Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization (LLEGO) in Washington, D.C.

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