A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo

Violence Against Women

divider line

Same-sex relationship violence

escape

Click the red escape button above to immediately leave this site if your abuser may see you reading it.

doctor looking at bruise on a woman

Some people believe that women are not likely to abuse each other. But experts believe that abuse happens as often in same-sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships.

A woman in a same-sex relationship who experiences dating violence or domestic violence may face many of the same issues as an abused heterosexual woman. Her partner may hit her, try to control her, or force her to have sex. A woman in a same-sex relationship may also face additional issues, including:

  • Fear of being "outed" as gay
  • Thinking that you have to be married to be considered a victim of domestic abuse
  • Concern that people who should help will instead be anti-gay

No one deserves to be mistreated. There are ways you can get help. You can:

  • Call a domestic violence shelter. Ask what services your local shelter offers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clients. If you're not satisfied with the answer, you can call a shelter in the nearest large city. If there is no LGBT-friendly shelter nearby, you can still go to a shelter. You can keep private that you are in a same-sex relationship if you want.
  • Call a hotline designed to help LGBT victims of violence. You can call the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs at 212-714-1141 for 24-hour assistance in English or Spanish.
  • Ask about getting a court order of protection. This order can require that your partner stay away from you and any children. Learn more about how to get a court order of protection.
  • Look for an antiviolence program. These programs work specifically with LGBT survivors of domestic abuse and hate violence. You can ask shelter staff for help finding a program or look at a list of programs in certain areas.
  • Get legal help if you need it. There are laws that protect people who are abused and laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Shelters can help you find lawyers who work for free if you can't afford to pay. Lambda Legal offers help on legal issues related to sexual orientation.
  • Learn more about leaving an abusive relationship. Read about making a safety plan.

Sometimes, people are hurt because they are LGBT or because someone thinks they are. Crimes that LGBT people may experience include harassment, stalking, and sexual violence. Hurting someone because of that person's gender or sexual orientation is always wrong. It also may be a federal hate crime with extra punishments.

Return to top

More information on Same-sex relationship violence

Explore other publications and websites

Connect with other organizations

Content last updated: May 18, 2011.

Return to top