0 INTRODUCTION

MANUAL FOR WORKING WITH LESBIAN WOMEN EXERTING VIOLENCE AND ABUSE IN THEIR PARTNERSHIPS

Aim of the project is to provide a manual focussing on specifics of working with lesbian women exerting abuse and violence in their partnerships. Looking at the diversity of women and enlightening specific circumstances of their lives helps to provide resources those women need. Those circumstances are owed to a society which still dismisses same-sex lifestyles. Thus lesbian women are still refused access to quite a few social resources.

In cases of domestic violence and abuse in lesbian partnerships the impact of social structures 'blinding out' same-sex lifestyles on victims and perpetrators becomes obvious: There are almost no social resources providing support needed by victims and perpetrators. 'Domestic violence' generally is defined as "physical, psychological and sexual violence to women by men". This definition ignores the possibility of domestic violence in same-sex partnerships. Consequently, neither victims nor perpetrators get services needed. Victims get re-victimized and perpetrators are in no need to stop their violent and abusive behaviour.

The discussion about domestic violence in lesbian partnerships seems to touch on a taboo in society: the idea of women as exerting violence and abuse. This idea breaks with traditional myths of women as being motherly, caring and self-sacrificing. Further, it questions the general assumption of women as victims and men as perpetrators. Consequently, mainstream discourses about domestic violence refuse any debates about domestic violence in same-sex partnerships and stigmatize it as a negligible problem of a social minority.

Finally, gay and lesbian subcultures themselves stigmatize debates about domestic violence since as a marginalized group they are in constant fear of "washing dirty laundry" in a deprecating society and thus promoting prejudices against lesbians and gays.

Nevertheless we are convinced that domestic violence and abuse in lesbian and gay couples needs to be named and measures of prevention and intervention taken. Lesbian victims need appropriate support to end their suffering and lesbian perpetrators need to take full responsibility for their actions.

This manual enlightens the diversity of women and hopefully will encourage professionals and volunteers - especially within the lesbian and gay community - to provide needed services.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised on the cd-rom and would like further advice or assistance, please contact adresses listed in chapt. 11.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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