Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

Queering International Human Rights: Lgbt Access to Domestic Violence Remedies

Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

Queering International Human Rights: Lgbt Access to Domestic Violence Remedies

Article excerpt

Introduction: Domestic Violence in Same-Sex Relationships 585

I. Domestic Violence and International Law 589

II. Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and International Law 594

III. The Invisibility of Same-Sex Domestic Violence 599

IV. A Model for International Law on Same-Sex Domestic Violence 602

A. Promoting LGBT-lnclusive Domestic Violence Legislation and Interpretation 603

B. Promoting Non-discriminatory Enforcement of LGBT - Inclusive Domestic Violence Laws 605

Conclusion 607

His moods would change abruptly. He fluctuated between being caring and loving to cruel and abusive, if I expressed dissent with the way he treated me he would force me to retreat by threatening to throw me out.... Mental abuse became physical. One day I was vomiting and could not respond to a question. He accused me of ignoring him and hit me hard across the face____[He] jabbed me in the stomach with his elbow causing me to collapse. He pressured me to disassociate from many of my friends when he realized they liked me better than they liked him .... He exercised emotional control by threatening suicide if I did not return.1

During the nine years that Elaine and I were together, she was physically and verbally violent to me on a regular basis. She would frequently pull my hair. She tried to strangle me on at least five or six occasions, often pushing me against a wall and hitting me. On numerous occasions, she would grab my face, pull off my glasses, and hit me. I often pled with her not to hit me or raise her voice in front of the baby, but she did not stop and often hit me while Maria was present.... [S]he threatened me saying that she would "... make [my] life a living hell" and said, "I'm going to send my people to kill you." Although I was terrified of her threats, I let her stay in the house because I wanted to protect Maria. I didn't want Maria to be alone with her.2


Domestic violence that occurs within same-sex relationships is a problem that largely exists "under the radar" for national governments, international organizations, domestic violence agencies, and even LGBT communities.4 Despite this lack of attention and awareness, same-sex domestic violence causes significant harm and suffering for its survivors5 throughout the world. In fact, sources suggest that domestic violence occurs with equal prevalence in same-sex relationships as their oppositesex counterparts, taking place in approximately twenty-five to thirty-three percent of relationships.6

Like their counterparts in opposite-sex relationships, survivors of samesex domestic violence may experience physical abuse, such as punching, kicking, biting, slapping, scratching, strangling, burning, hair-pulling, striking with heavy or sharp objects, using weapons, or "withholding access to medication, medical care, food, fluids, and/or sleep";7 sexual abuse; psychological abuse, such as the use of harassment, blackmail, isolation, religious or cultural justifications, or the threat of harm to the survivor, loved ones, or pets; verbal abuse; the destruction of property; the use of finances, immigration status, or HIV status to manipulate or control the survivor; and levying false criminal or civil complaints against the survivor.8 Furthermore, in cases of both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic violence, this conduct often follows a repeated pattem or cycle "that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner."9

Unlike most survivors of opposite-sex domestic violence, LGBT survivors are vulnerable to a distinct form of abuse derived from homophobia in their own societies.10 The abusers in same-sex relationships may exert control over their partners by threatening to expose their sexual orientation or gender identity to others, taking advantage of the following dynamic:

Society's fear and hatred of homosexuality causes isolation and increases the vulnerability of gay men and lesbians to domestic abuse . …

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