6. Data from NGOs

The European data on domestic violence within the context of lesbian partnerships is meagre. In specialist counselling services for domestic violence, lesbians represent a marginal group, i.e. they only very seldom make use of these organisations. At the same time, there are hardly any specialist counselling services that specifically target lesbian women or lesbian, i.e. lesbian/gay/transgender counselling centers.

Broken Rainbow e.V. 2006

From the year 2000 to 2006, Broken Rainbow analysed 142 cases of domestic violence and 120 cases of discrimination and hate crimes. In the following, case studies are presented to provide insight into the experience of violence by lesbian women.

Table 1: Areas of Incidence

Areas of Incidence 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Total
Violence against lesbians 25 15 10 5 13 68
Violence in the partnership 16 11 9 9 20 65
Violence by family member or ex-partner 30 16 19 6 6 77
Violence in close social environment 25 18 6 9 1 58
No information 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 96 60 44 29 40 268

The circle of perpetrators includes not only violent partners but also violent ex-partners, including male ex-partners, and violence can also be exerted by members of the family of origin. Assault by members of the chosen family were included under “violence in the close social environment” (See definition of domestic violence). 

Violence by the family of origin

Case Studies:

  • After a family with an archaic patriarchal cultural background attempted to “convert” their daughter after her coming-out and found that this was unsuccessful, they threatened her with murder (2004/184).
  • The parents of a lesbian threatened to kill her. This family also had an archaic patriarchal cultural background.(2004/183).
  • The partner’s parents verbally abused the client as a lesbian and a whore, said she deserved to be gassed and forbade her from entering the house (2003/019).
  • A client’s daughter choked her after she became aware that her mother was lesbian (2002/045).
  • The girlfriend’s father forbade the client from any form of contact; she was also not permitted to enter the home. The meetings took place secretly.  (2006/255).
  • Because she was lesbian, the daughter was threatened with being married against her will and rejected by the family (2006/251).

Violence by the current partner

The vast majority of cases involve physical abuse together with psychological/verbal violence, stalking or sexualised violence. There is usually a combination of different forms of violence and only in very few cases did psychological/verbal violence (insults, degradation, etc.) occur in the absence of other forms of violence. Sexualised violence also only occurred in one case without other forms of violence.

Case Studies:

  • The perpetrator arrived drunk at the victim’s home and the victim demanded that she leave. The perpetrator responded with punches, pulled the victim’s hair and kicked her in the back. (2003/012).
  • The perpetrator punched her partner during disputes when under the influence of alcohol (2003/033).
  • The perpetrator grabbed her partner and slammed her head against the door. She also read her letters and e-mails. She was extremely jealous and forbade her partner from meeting friends or work colleagues. (2003/043)
  • In another case a dispute escalated to physical assault when the perpetrator picked up a knife and injured the client (2002/093).
  • During disputes, the client was pushed by her partner, hit in the face and choked (2002/096).
  • During an argument, the client was struck so severely that she had to be brought to hospital (2006/266).
  • In the course of the relationship there were repeated conflicts, particularly under the influence of alcohol, in which both women became aggressive: Pushing, shouting, leaving the partner without a house key (2006/253).
  • Conflicts escalate so that both partners “also hit each other sometimes” (2006/252).

Almost all assaults took place in the victim’s own or the shared home, only one took place in a public place. Numerous violent confrontations between partners took place both in lesbian-gay venues and at home. Little information was provided about the time that the incidents took place. However, analysis of the little information available shows that the violence was omnipresent since the majority reported that the incidents occurred during the day as well as during the evening and the night. This makes the violence unpredictable for the victim and the danger omnipresent since there is no time when the risk is reduced.

Only very few of the abused lesbian women sought medical care; equally few took civil legal action. If support was sought, this occurred – in addition to consultation at lesbian support services – above all within the circle of friends (one third): The victims often fled to friends and stayed overnight or hid there. Only very few women visited other counselling services, sought legal advice or entered therapy.

Violence by the former partner

The perpetrators were either the client’s or her current partner’s ex-partner. Analysis of the types of violence exerted shows that the occurrence of stalking activities by ex-partners strongly increases at the time of separation. This is usually associated with a combination of physical and psychological/verbal violence.

Case Study:

  • Following separation, the ex-partner constantly called and threatened the client. She felt harassed and threatened. She was also afraid that the ex-partner might do something to her new partner (2004/194).
  • After the separation the ex-partner choked the client in the rest rooms of a scene bar, harassed her in front of her house, in the hallway and in the victim’s home. She choked her again and forced her to have sex (2004/195).
  • The partner’s ex-partner threatened to professionally discredit the client (2003/022).
  • The ex-partner constantly phoned and came to the client’s home. She kicked against the front door until the client called the police. Only after their intervention did the perpetrator leave the scene.  (2002/034).
  • The client was abused and sexually harassed by her ex-partner in her apartment (2002/039).

Most violence took place during the day or evening in the home of the victim, followed by public places, e.g. on the street.  Often there was a combination of events, for example, being followed on the street and telephone terror at home. In comparison to violence by the current partner, which predominantly takes place in the victim’s home, a differentiation of the scene of the violence can be recognised here. However, the extent to which this is significant cannot be established at the current time.

Violence by former male partner

In comparison to other perpetrator groups, domestic violence by male ex-partners displays a specific phenomenon: The great majority of assaults by male ex-partners took place in rural areas, one took place in a medium-sized city and five in a large city. The most common forms of violence exerted were psychological violence, followed by sexualised violence, physical assault and stalking.

Case Studies:

  • After the separation, the client was repeatedly raped by her ex-husband and his friends. She finally sought assistance from the company social counselling service which referred her to the lesbian counselling service (2004/199).
  • In one case, the ex-husband threatened to take the children away (2003/025).
  • In another case, the ex-husband assaulted the new partner with a knife. He also formed an alliance with the client’s father and demanded that the assets that his ex-wife brought into the marriage be transferred to him. The new partner’s car was damaged by persons unknown (2003/051).
  • The ex-husband choked his former partner (2002/02).
  • The ex-husband verbally abused his ex-wife, threatened her, belittled her lifestyle and humiliated her (2002/036).
  • The ex-husband hit his ex-wife in the face during an argument about the lesbian relationship (2002/053).
  • The ex-husband threatened to slash the tyres of his ex-wife’s lover’s car (2002/056).
  • The ex-husband attempted to rape his ex-wife (2002/090).
  • During her lesbian relationship, the client’s ex-partner subjected her to physical and sexual assault (2006/264).

Table 2: Nature of Violence

Type of Violence 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Total
Physical violence 27 19 11 19 76
Sexualised violence 15 10 6 5 36
Psychological/ verbal violence 47 37 16 31 131
Financial control 5 1 3 2 11
Stalking 10 9 3 3 25
Mobbing 7 5 1 6 19
Property damage 0 5 1 2 8
Use of weapon 2 0 1 0 3
Other 24 14 1 5 44
No information 0 0 2 0 2
Total 137 100 0 45 73 355

* The data for 2004 is included in the previous years.

This table makes it clear that a weapon is used against lesbian women in only very few cases. The table also shows that, as a rule, no form of violence is used alone but rather that a combination of several forms of violence is used.

Table 3: Relationship of Perpetrator to the Victim

  Perpetrators 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Total
Gender Male 41 24 22 14 16 117
  Female 52 41 20 16 27 156
  No information 4 0 2 1 2 9
  Total 97 65 44 31 45 282
Age Youth (-26) 7 5 4 2 5 23
  Adult 61 47 35 21 15 108
  No information 29 8 5 6 21 37
  Total 97 60 44 29 41 168
Familiarity of
Known person 52 44 44 16 10 166
  Unknown person 19 13 0 4 4 40
  Perpetrator from the scene 4 2 1 6
  No information 22 1 9 27 59
  Total 97 60 44 29 42 271
Relationship Ex-husband/Partner 6 2 0 3 3 14

Ex-partner 13 7 8 4 5 37
  Current partner 14 10 9 1 14 48
  Family of origin 5 5 7 3 3 23
  Chosen family 3 0 5 1 0 9
  Work colleague 6 4 15 1 3 29
  Other 21 25 0 9 6 61
  No information 29 7 0 7 8 51
  Total 97 60 44 29 42 272

* Multiple entries are possible if there was more than one perpetrator.

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

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