Author: Lev Kellman-Lima, YAV
Photo: Netflix’s original series, Orange is the New Black

61% of bisexual women and 44% of lesbian women surveyed in 2013 reported some type of intimate partner violence (IPV) compared to 35% of straight women. Intimate partner violence includes emotional/verbal abuse, physical abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and more. So, why don’t we know that queer relationships have such high rates of abuse? For starters, physical abusers are often portrayed as violent men, so along with many other misconceptions about women-loving-women (WLW) relationships, many people have trouble understanding why and how this abuse may occur. It’s especially dangerous when queer women themselves are conditioned to treat their own unhealthy situation differently than a heterosexual couple might.

Aside from physical violence among lesbian relationships, our society’s apathy towards emotional abuse means a lot of psychological violence is overlooked, especially when we’re already programmed to see men as the abusers.

The thing about showcasing abuse in media is that well-portrayed relationships can be incredibly important to survivors who see themselves from a new perspective and may feel less alone. The tricky part is that these relationships can so easily be glamorized and suddenly have the opposite effect on viewers. They might see toxicity as passion or feel that their relationship needs an element of excitement and
inconsistency. The Netflix series Orange is the New Black showcases dozens of queer relationships within prison, and many are somehow abusive. While this is a sometimes realistic depiction, only certain parts of the relationships are shown, maybe one or two fights, a sex scene, and suddenly everything is “fixed”. The issue isn’t the fact that these relationships are in media. It’s crucial as viewers to recognize when a pairing
(such as an inmate and a guard) shouldn’t be made into cute compilations. It’s important to create education around all the different types of domestic violence with emphasis on the message that abuse is abuse no matter who it’s coming from and it’s not love.

NCADV “Who is Doing What to Whom? Determining the Core Aggressor in Relationships Where Domestic Violence Exists.”
Frontiers “When Intimate Partner Violence Meets Same Sex Couples: A Review of Same Sex Intimate Partner Violence”
Alberta Children’s Services Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying “Abuse in Same-Sex and LGBTQ* Relationships”

Lev Kellman-Lima is a senior at El Cerrito High School and has been with YAV since 2022. Her plans for the future include studying psychology, neuroscience, and social work in college to continue working with survivors of abuse.

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