Interpersonal Violence in the LGBT Community

Historically, differences in philosophy and terminology have blocked collaborative care for clients involved in both interpersonal violence and substance abuse (CSAT [Center for Substance Abuse Treatment],1997c). Interpersonal violence has been defined as the use of intentional verbal, psychological, sexual, or physical force by one intimate partner to control another (CSAT, 1997c). Nonetheless, a marked link between interpersonal violence and substance abuse is well documented (Pernanen, 1991; Windle et al., 1995; Bennett, 1995). Up to one-half of the men who commit acts of interpersonal violence also have substance abuse problems (Gondolf, 1995; Leonard & Jacob, 1987; Faller, 1988), and women who abuse alcohol and other substances are more likely to be the victims of interpersonal violence (Miller, Downs & Gondolfi, 1989; Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994; Stark & Filcraft, 1988; Gorman et al., 1995). Less is known about the relationship between substance abuse and interpersonal violence in the LGBT community. Perhaps the LGBT community has been reluctant to call attention to the issue of interpersonal violence out of concern for reinforcing the stereotype that homosexuality is inherently dysfunctional. Fortunately, the seriousness of interpersonal violence has finally been acknowledged by the LGBT community over the past decade (Elliot, 1996). The first account of lesbian battering was published in 1986 (Lobel). Experts estimate that interpersonal violence occurs at about the same rate in same-sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships (Island & Letellier, 1991; Lobel, 1986). Rates of partner violence range from 8 to 46 percent (Elliot, 1996). The National Lesbian Health Care Survey (Bradford, Ryan & Rothblum, 1994) showed an 8-percent rate of partner violence in a diverse, nonclinical sample of nearly 2,000 lesbians. In a study of 90 lesbian couples, 46 percent of the couples experienced repeated acts of violence in their relationship (Coleman, 1990). And of 1,000 gay men surveyed in the Northstar Project, 17 percent reported having been in a physically violent relationship (Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council, 1987). In a study of 228 gay male perpetrators, Farley (1996) found the following contributing to gay interpersonal violence:

• 40 percent abused drugs.

• 87 percent had previous mental health treatment.

• 93 percent reported physical abuse as a child, and 67 percent reported sexual abuse as a child.

• 53 percent reported physical abuse as an adult.

• 40 percent reported alcohol abuse in their family of origin.

• 80 percent had a previous history of being an abuser in an adult relationship.