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Fall/Winter 2023, Topic of the Quarter

“Restraining Orders and the LGBT Community” by Jonathan Watson

Although this may sound like a bizarre question, I would like to start this posting by asking readers “who do you envision as an ‘ideal victim’ in a domestic violence situation?” Your thoughts might’ve gone immediately towards a heterosexual couple, so let’s expand our perceptions to include LGBT couples. With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and LGBT History Month, this might be a great opportunity to do so.

According to “When Intimate Partner Violence Meets Same Sex Couples: A Review of Same Sex Intimate Partner Violence” (2018), the rate of domestic violence amongst the LGBT population may be just as underreported as in heterosexual households in the United States. The following figures regarding the LGBT population were mentioned in the piece:

“…almost one-third of sexual minority males and one-half of sexual minority women…affirmed they were victims of physical or psychological abuse in a romantic relationship. In addition, over 50% of gay men and almost 75% of lesbian women reported that they were victims of psychological IPV [intimate partner violence] (Breiding et al., 2013). Breiding et al. (2013) identified that 4.1 million people of the LGB community have experienced IPV in their lifetime in the United States.”

Other studies such as “Addressing Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients” (Ard & Makadon, 2011), The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2013) and “INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ABUSE AMONG LGBT PEOPLE” (Brown & Herman, 2015) offer comparative statistical data. Padgett (2023) wrote about the rise in such cases post-pandemic. Comparatively, Frankis and Maxwell (2023) assert that “one in four gay and bisexual men (GBM) in Scotland have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in the past year” in their study conducted at the Glasgow Caledonian University. As stated in a posting by JD Law Firm (2022), battered same sex individuals might not report the domestic violence for the following reasons: potential homophobia from domestic violence service providers, the risk of rejection from family and friends if they are “outed”, and the lack of resources tailored specifically for LGBT victims.

What could happen when domestic violence is reported by an LGBT individual? In her article “The Disproportionate Effect of Mutual Restraining Orders on Same-Sex Domestic Violence Victims”, Jacquie Andreano (2020) discusses how common it is for dual arrest to be executed in such situations. When discussing the concept of “battered women’s syndrome,” Andreano describes how LGBT victims “do not often fit the traditional stereotypes of dependent or weak females” or as being “meek, helpless and feminine”. She mentions how mutual restraining orders are often issued by judicial officers despite one not being requested by the respondent—perhaps in part to avoid a trial in which the aggressor and victim must be proven.

While this might be perceived as a litigious benefit, Andreano mentions the difficulty faced when a mutual restraining order is violated and the difficulty that law enforcement has when determining who the violator is. In the case of a same-sex couple, there might be the perception that the abuse is mutual or consensual because it is not occurring between people of the opposite sex. You might consider reading “’It happens in gay relationships too’: the story behind a domestic violence cabaret” or Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir In the Dream House for insight into how domestic violence can start regardless of the individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. You might also check out Mayo Clinic’s article about domestic violence against men.

Whether you are a pro per litigant or a legal expert, be sure to visit Solano County Law Library for your legal reference needs. We possess materials that address procedures and the paperwork involved in the four main types of restraining orders. If you are seeking restraining order assistance, you might try the services listed on our “Legal Assistance: Free or Low-Cost Legal Services” brochure.

This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

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