Same-Sex Domestic Violence: Why Victims are More at Risk

AuthorEvan Harrington,Peter English,Brian Tesch,Debra Bekerian
Publication Date01 December 2010
DOI10.1350/ijps.2010.12.4.204
SubjectArticle
PSM 12(4) dockie..PSM204 Tesch et al .. Page526 International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume 12 Number 4
Same-sex domestic violence: why victims
are more at risk

Brian Tesch, Debra Bekerian, Peter English§ and Evan Harrington
†(Corresponding author) Department of Forensic Psychology, Alliant International
University, 5130 E. Clinton Way, Fresno, CA 93727, USA. Tel: +1 630 849 3414;
Fax: +1 559 250 2200; email: btesch@alliant.edu
‡Department of Forensic Psychology, Alliant International University, 5130 E. Clinton Way,
Fresno, CA 93727, USA
§California State University – Fresno, Dept. of Criminology, 2576 East San Ramon Ave. M/
S ST 104, Fresno, CA 93740, USA
¶Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 325 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654,
USA
Submitted 29 March 2010; revision submitted 11 June 2010;
accepted 1 July 2010

Keywords: same-sex domestic violence, police officer response, domestic
violence, GLBT issues
Brian Tesch is a doctoral candidate at Alliant
While previous research studies suggest that
International University. His primary research
same-sex domestic violence and opposite-sex
focus concerns gay, lesbian and transgender
domestic violence have a roughly equivalent fre-
domestic violence.
quency rate, the current study finds that police
Debra Bekerian is a lecturer at Alliant Inter-
officers are encountering same-sex domestic vio-
national University. Her research interests
lence on a regular basis. However, a lack of
include trauma and sexual assault.
training may render cases of same-sex violence
Peter English is a lecturer at Alliant International
more difficult for officers, as training in same-sex
University. Some of his research areas include
violence is not as readily available as is training
attention and visual search.
for opposite-sex violence.
Evan Harrington is a lecturer at the Chicago
School of Professional Psychology. His research
INTRODUCTION
interests include the nocebo (negative placebo)
effect.
For those who choose to identify them-
selves as members of a sexual minority,
there is the very real possibility that some
ABSTRACT
of them will experience some form of
The purpose of this study was to examine police
domestic violence and abuse while in a
officers' general knowledge, experience and train-
romantic relationship. This abuse may be
ing in the area of same-sex domestic violence. A
physical, emotional or psychological in
survey was administered to 91 police officers from
nature. The physical violence can range
5 towns in Illinois. The study revealed that a
anywhere from the occasional slap, to severe
majority of officers had encountered at least one
beatings which require hospitalisation; sim-
International Journal of Police
same-sex domestic violence call within the last six
ilarly, sadistic incidents of violent sexual
Science and Management,
Vol. 12 No. 4, 2010, pp. 526–535.
months. In contrast, officers reported very little
abuse have been known to occur in the
DOI: 10.1350/ijps.2010.12.4.204
training in their departments regarding this issue.
context of these romantic relationships
Page 526

Tesch et al.
(Barnes, 1998; Dahir, 1999; Merrill, 1996;
Because of the likelihood of SSDV incid-
Renzetti, 1992).
ents, it becomes important to ensure that
The exact figures regarding the fre-
there is adequate training from the police
quency of same-sex domestic violence are
department in issues that affect the GLBT
difficult to establish unequivocally. None-
community. Issues associated with SSDV
theless, some studies have attempted to
may leave untrained police officers at a
ascertain prevalence rates of same-sex
disadvantage as to how to best work with
domestic violence (SSDV) and compare it
this population should it be required. To this
with their heterosexual counterparts’
end, the goal of the current study was to
domestic violence rates. A landmark study
establish first, how often officers encounter
of this nature was conducted by Tjaden,
incidents of SSDV and second, the extent
Thoennes, and Allison (1999), which
to which police officers in a suburban area
looked at intimate partner violence in
of a large cosmopolitan American city
heterosexual and homosexual cohabitating
received any training to handle SSDV
couples. This study found that intimate
situations.
partner violence was much higher in gay
male romantic couples than their hetero-
LITERATURE
sexual counterparts, and that violence was
There appear to be certain reoccurring mis-
overwhelmingly perpetrated by men in an
conceptions regarding SSDV (Island &
intimate relationship, with women being
Letellier, 1991; Merrill, 1996). Some of
overwhelmingly the victims of such vio-
these misconceptions are: (1) a high number
lence (Renzetti, 1996; Tjaden et al.). How-
of domestic violence incidents is under-
ever, one limitation of the Tjaden et al.
standable with males, as all or most men are
study is that the sample size was small, using
prone to violence, but lesbian domestic
only 144 out of 16,000 members of the gay,
violence does not occur, as females are not
lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT)
violent and would not be violent towards
community from which the researchers
one another; (2) heterosexual partner abuse
recruited participants (Balsam, Beauchaine,
is much more severe than SSDV because
& Rothblum, 2005; Tjaden et al.).
men tend to be physically stronger than
In contrast to the findings of Tjaden et al.
women, while same-sex couples may be
(1999), most recent research on SSDV con-
more evenly matched in terms of size and
sistently suggests that abuse in same-sex
physical strength; and (3) the perpetrator
couples occurs with roughly the same fre-
must be the ‘man’ or the ‘butch’ and the
quency as it does for heterosexual couples
victim must be the woman or the ‘femme’
(see Barnes, 1998; Island & Letellier, 1991;
in emulation of heterosexual relationships
Letellier, 2002; Potoczniak, Mourot,
(Merrill; Miller, Greene, Causby, White, &
Crosbie-Burnett, & Potoczniak, 2003;
Lockhart, 2001; Poorman, 2001; Renzetti,
Renzetti, 1992; Seelau, Seelau, & Poorman,
1992). Police officers who do not have
2003). Taken together, a conservative estim-
experience with, knowledge of, or ties to
ate is that domestic violence, regardless of
the GLBT community may see these pre-
the sex of the couples involved, is a serious
sumed gender-roles as factual; and as a
social problem. As such, it is likely that
consequence, may not treat cases of SSDV
police officers, even those in smaller sub-
effectively (Island & Letellier; Seelau et al.,
urban towns, will encounter some type of
2003).
same-sex domestic violence during their
Heterosexual men and women could
usual official...

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