The theoretical underpinning of this manual is based on experiences of counsellors, psychotherapist and volunteers working with lesbian women who have experienced violence and abuse in their partnerships.
National research conducted by lesbian counselling services in
Since we could not find any data about extend of domestic violence and experiences from counselling/social services in other European countries we will subsequently refer to those of
In cases of domestic violence in present partnership most women contacting LGBT counselling services are asking for counselling sessions. Second service requested is couple counselling and third one is counselling via telephone. In couple counselling partners are looking for support solving “interpersonal problems”. Violent/abusive experiences are usually mentioned later during counselling process. This means, that none of the partners defines her experiences as “abuse” or violence” and thus are not aware of either being victimized or perpetrating those acts. So, counsellors are confronted with three kinds of clients: those who experience violence/abuse, those who exert violence/abuse and third, those who do not name their experiences.
When contacting a counselling service violence already has increased in severity: clients show up mainly in cases of physical and sexual attacks. Non-physical forms of violence usually go along with physical forms, only few cases are about solely psychological forms of violence. Only rarely clients are looking for support in phase of separation or want to get separated; in most of the documented cases violence/abuse is constituent part of present relationship.
Counsellors are confronted with three main problems:
Analysis of counselling experiences show that very often both partners are actively involved into violent dynamics. In some cases no victim can be defined as such while in other cases victims act aggressively themselves. Further, most women regard themselves as “victims”, i.e. suffering from violent acts from her partner. Others again feel provoked by their partners. Own aggressions are denied and responsibilities are not taken over. If domestic violence/abuse is constituent part of present partnership the urgent intention of contacting counselling is to keep up partnership. In cases of verbal and psychological abuse (force, derogation, etc.), partners may not be aware of what is going on since they view violence as such only in cases of physical attacks. Further, even those women who can be defined as victims show a high degree of ambivalences, i.e. repeated dropouts of counselling and resuming of counselling; victims may return to their abusive/violent partner or cannot let her go. Reasons may be internalised homophobia (“I do not deserve better”), isolation (“I will not find any other partner”), community values (“female aggression is desired and positive connotated behaviour) or self-fulfilment, i.e. the victim may feel superior to her partner because she is not acting aggressively, she is getting attention and care she desires etc.
The experiences of counsellors, psychotherapists and volunteers has been structured and developed further by head of project, Constance Ohms in her thesis about violent dynamics in lesbian partnerships (2008). Main results of her thesis will be outlined following pages.