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Signs of an Abusive Relationship

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Partner abuse is an ongoing pattern of behaviors where one person tries to control the thoughts, beliefs, or actions of their partner, someone they are in a relationship with or dating. Controlling behavior may take the form of physical, emotional, sexual, financial or cultural/identity abuse.

Does the other person...

  • Keep you awake at night talking or arguing? Throw things or become physically violent?
  • Use/steal your identity, credit cards? Control bank account, refuse to let you work or keep you on an allowance?
  • Blame you for the abuse? Say you made them do it, provoked them, pressed their buttons, led them on?
  • Threaten or hurt pets, the children, other loved ones? Threaten to get custody of children, call immigration?
  • Change the rules and expectations without warning, act erratically, cause you to feel confused or crazy?
  • Blame their behavior on being drunk or high, pressure you to misuse drugs or alcohol?
  • Criticize or put you down? Tell you that nobody else will ever love you or that you are worthless?
  • Accuse you of cheating or lying if you get home late, talk on the phone or want privacy?
  • Follow your movements, read your email, look through your cell phone?
  • Guilt-trip or manipulate you? Say, "If you really loved me you would..." or "this is how all LGBT relationships are."
  • Withhold or control access to medications (including those for depression, anxiety, HIV and hormones)?
  • Use the wrong pronouns or name for you, say that you are sick or crazy for being transgender?
  • Expect you to kiss, touch, tape-record or have unprotected sex? Tell you that all LGBT sex is "rough"?
  • Threaten to "out" your sexual orientation, HIV status, transgender identity, etc. to co-workers, family, spiritual community, authorities, child protective services or immigration?
  • Use your family/community's religious/cultural lack of acceptance to keep you in the relationship?
  • Isolate you, keep you from attending coming out/support groups?
  • Refuse to accept or threaten to commit suicide if you break up?
  • Apologize and promise to change, then after a period of peace become abusive again?

If these sound familiar, you may be in an abusive relationship. There is help. Click here for resources.

Myths About Relationship Violence

Myth: Abuse does not happen in LGBT relationships.
1 in 4 LGBT people are abused by a partner at some point in their life. Not as much research has been done on same-sex partner abuse as in the straight battered women's movement. Within the LGBT community it is rarely discussed and many people are unaware that abuse is so common.

Myth: Abusive behavior is a normal part of LGBT relationships. Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people deserve or  should expect abuse.
Many LGBT people are told and believe that because the world-at-large does not accept them, that they deserve what they get. Abusers may tell their partners that all LGBT relationships are like this, especially if the survivor is new to the LGBT community and has not had experience with same-sex relationships. Abuse is never ok and nobody deserves to be abused.

Myth: LGBT abuse is not as serious or dangerous as heterosexual abuse.
Abuse in LGBT relationships is just as frequent and severe as in straight relationships. LGBT abuse can result in injury and death. The idea that gay men are effeminate and therefore cannot be violent is a stereotype and inaccurate. The belief that women's-only space is safe and that women aren't violent is also untrue.  Women have been seriously injured or killed by their female partners.

Myth: If two people are the same sex, there is no gender inequality and what is happening is not abuse.
In the heterosexual community, abusers often use male privilege over women to justify and maintain control. But abusers can use many kinds of inequality and oppression to control their partners (i.e. racisim, ableism, classism, anti-Semitism, transphobia, ageism.)

Myth: It is easier for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people to leave abusive relationships.
LGBT people have many of the same concerns about leaving as heterosexual women do. In addition, lack of legal and cultural recognition of LGBT relationships creates more challenges for someone leaving an abusive relationship because there are fewer services and resources for LGBT survivors and many people have lost family and community support because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Myth: It is easier for men to leave abusive relationships.
It is assumed that men, including gay, bisexual and transgender men, are never victims of abuse. There is also the stereotype that men should not ask for help, should be able to take care of themselves, and are used to dealing with violent situations. It may be very hard for them to get help or even recognize an abusive relationship because of this. There are also fewer resources for male survivors.

Myth: The stronger, larger, more butch person is the abuser.
Abuse is about power and control. You cannot tell by looking at a couple who is the abuser based on a person's size, strength, or who is “butch” or more “masculine”.

Myth: Couples counseling can fix the relationship.
Couples counseling can actually escalate the abuse. Abusers can manipulate and lie to the therapist, frame the abuse as a mutual problem and retaliate afterward for things the survivor reveals in therapy.

Myth: Victims attract abusers or want to be abused.
Nobody wants to be abused, even those abused as children or with histories of multiple abusive relationships.

Myth: If you were never hit, it's not abuse.
Abuse is about power and control. Physical violence or the threat of it is just one way for abusers to keep power and control in the relationship. Other ways include emotional, financial, sexual, or cultural/identity abuse and these are just as painful.

Myth: Both people have hit each other so it must be mutual abuse.
Survivors may fight back to stop the abuse or in self-defense. An abuser uses violence to keep control of their partner. This does not mean both people are abusers - abuse is never mutual. By definition, abuse is one person controlling the thoughts, beliefs or actions of the other.

Back to the Relationship Violence Page