3. Anglo-American research

Most research on violence in lesbian relationships comes from Anglo-American countries and is primarily concerned with the extent and possible causes of violence. There is high discrepancy in the data, which can be attributed to the use of different definitions of violence and to the limited opportunities for research.

In the following exemplary studies, the focus is placed on physical assault: Further, a survey by the “Gay & Lesbian Community Action Council” in 1987 in Minneapolis found that 22% of the 900 lesbians and 17% of the 1,000 gay men questioned had experienced physical violence.  More recent research by Tjaden/Thoennes/Allisson in 1999 reports the lifelong prevalence of physical violence in same-sex relationships to be 11.4%, in comparison to 20.3% in heterosexual partnerships. This study also addresses an additional aspect of domestic violence, that exercised by the male ex-partner. The authors come to the conclusion that the risk of lesbian women being assaulted by a male ex-partner is close to three times as high as the likelihood ob being the victim of a female partner (30.4% vs. 11.4%). In view of the extent of physical violence in gay partnerships, the University of Georgetown (2003) came to the conclusion that of the 2,881 homosexual men questioned, 20% had experience violence from their partner. Although the two studies mentioned above conclude that the prevalence of physical violence in gay and heterosexual partnerships is comparable while that in lesbian partnerships is significantly less, the current literature on violence in lesbian relationships assumes, on the basis of other studies, that the prevalence is approximately the same in all three groups.

Since – as mentioned above – the focus of the cited studies lay on physical assault, they permit no conclusions on the occurrence of verbal and/or psychological violence. Information on the frequency of immaterial forms of violence is provided, for example, by the study by Lie/Schilit (1991). The authors come to the conclusion that of the 169 respondents, 26% had experienced physical or sexualised violence. When psychological coercion and other immaterial forms of violence are included, the percentage increases to 73%.  In her research, Renzetti (1992) also comes to the conclusion that of 100 lesbian respondents, 87% had experienced physical and psychological abuse whereby psychological forms of violence occurred more frequently than physical assault. In addition, children were involved in 30% of all cases and household pets in 38%.

If one ignores the methodological problems, it can be generally concluded that most studies established an average prevalence of psychological violence in lesbian relationships between 20% and 30%. This allows the conclusion that, on average, physical violence is exercised in every fourth lesbian relationship. The degree of victimisation increases if psychological and verbal abuse are also considered. Here, the prevalence is assumed to be as high as 80%. According to most authors, the extent of violence in lesbian relationships is comparable to domestic violence in heterosexual relationships (i.e. Renzetti 1992, West 2002). There was also no difference established to the forms of violence exerted in violent heterosexual partnerships; lesbian woman use physical, psychological/verbal and sexualised violence (Elliott 1996). However, it was possible to establish a greater tendency to use immaterial forms of violence (Renzetti 1992; McLaughlin/Rozee 2001).


Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council, Minneapolis (MN) (1987): A survey of the Twin Cities gay and lesbian community: Northstar project. Unpublished paper. Cited in Elliott (1996), S. 3.

P. Tjaden/N. Thoennes/C.J. Allison (1999): Comparing violence over the life span in samples of same-sex and opposite sex cohabitants. Violence and Victims 14, S. 413-425.

Cited in Mc Laughlin/Rozee 2001:41.

School of Nursing and Health Studies of the Georgetown University (2003). Published on the website: http://gumc.georgetown.edu/communications/releases/battered_01242003.htm. Status: 24 January 2003.

G. Lie/R. Schilit/J.Bush/M. Montagne/L. Reyes (1991): Lesbians in currently aggressive relationships: How frequently do they report aggressive past relationships? Violence and Victims 11, S. 85-103.

page 1 of 1
to top

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

Imprint | Sitemap