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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

08 SEP 2011

Seeking help from the enemy: help-seeking strategies of those in same-sex relationships who have experienced domestic abuse [2011] CFLQ 26


There is no longer any question about whether domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships. Consequently, the key questions now concern how to understand and respond to it. In this article the latter is the focus and, in particular, whether victims/survivors of same-sex domestic violence report their experiences to the police and what barriers exist to help-seeking. The article draws on the findings from the largest national study conducted in the UK to date comparing love and violence in same-sex and heterosexual relationships in order to explore some of the differences and similarities in help-seeking between heterosexual women and those in same-sex relationships. The core argument is three-fold. First, that the dominant approach to understanding domestic violence has been based on a heteronormative model in which the violence, understood mainly as physical violence, is perpetrated by the physically bigger and stronger (male) partner and suffered by the physically smaller and weaker (female) partner. The impact of this model has resulted in victims/survivors of same-sex domestic violence not recognising their experience as domestic violence and not reporting their experience to the police (or other public sources of help). Second, that public sources of help, particularly the police, are typically perceived to be unsafe or unreliable as sources of help either because they will not understand the particularities of same-sex domestic violence and/or because they will be unsympathetic in their response because of heterosexism. Third, the work of David Garland about the criminologies of the self and other is used to explain both why so few victims/survivors of same-sex domestic violence report their experiences and why these few might do so. In conclusion the implications for strategies to improve help-seeking are considered.

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