Domestic violence is a prevalent criminal and social issue because this occurs in various cultures and types of domestic partnerships. This is the reason for the establishment of laws and processes to aid victims of domestic violence. However, addressing domestic violence is not at all simple because the difficulty not only lies in the weak protective measures or loopholes of laws and criminal justice processes but also the failure or reluctance of victims to report their experiences to the police much less file action against the perpetrator, who happen to be their partners.
Nevertheless, the reason for the reluctance is not entirely legal. Socio-cultural and religious factors could come into play that dictates acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. Economic factors also contribute to the reluctance. Psychological factors could also intervene in the decision to report victimization. (Roberts, 2002) A similar situation occurs even in cases of domestic violence among homosexual or same-sex couples.
There is even a lesser probability of victims of homosexual domestic violence to report victimization than domestic violence between heterosexual couples because of the additional discriminatory situations that homosexual domestic violence victims face.
(Renzetti, 1996) Heterosexual and Homosexual Domestic Violence Victimization Violence or abuse happens in homosexual partners as often as in heterosexual couples but there are similarities and differences in the situation faced by heterosexual and homosexual couples that could explain the reasons for the lesser likelihood of victimization reporting by homosexual domestic violence victims.
As all victims of domestic violence, heterosexual and homosexual partners also undergo emotional dilemma in telling people about the violence or abuse much less report it to the authorities. However, homosexual partners also need to deal with homophobic issues arising from their social circle and the community in general so that they have to first deal with their homosexuality and homosexual relationship before even dealing with reporting domestic violence.
(Renzetti, 1996; Roberts, 2002; Brown, 2008) Similar facts on domestic violence apply to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Even partnership of the same sex does not necessarily provide a guarantee of equal status of the partners forming the relationship. It is also difficult for a victim of domestic violence in a heterosexual and homosexual relationship to leave the partnership. Blame on the victim in both types of partnership also occurs to influence the decision to report the incident.
Remorse is also commonly exhibited by the abusers in both types of relationship to give the victim false hope over the cessation of the abuse. (Renzetti, 1996; Roberts, 2002; Brown, 2008) Reporting of Homosexual Domestic Violence Victimization to the Police There are differences in the domestic abuse experienced by heterosexual and homosexual victims and these differences comprise the reasons for the lesser likelihood of victims of domestic violence in same sex relationships to the report the abuse to the police.
First is the limited recognition and understanding of domestic violence in the case of homosexual couples. This is perhaps due to the complex issue of accepting homosexual partnership more so with homosexual domestic violence. Lack of understanding or unacceptability of homosexual partnership would likely yield to negative reactions from society and evasion in addressing homosexual domestic violence. Aversion and evasion are the expected reactions of society to issues that it cannot understand. (Peterman & Dixon, 2003; Brown, 2008)
Moreover, it is not only society in general that lacks an understanding of homosexual relationship and domestic violence, the victims themselves could find it difficult to assess their situations and decide on the manner of dealing with the problem by considering emotional factors such as attachment to the partner and fear of being alone especially when they receive little support for their sexual preferences in their own social circle. Some of the victims who have not yet divulged their sexual preferences to their family, friends and co-workers also have to admit their homosexuality in reporting the abuse to the police.
Many may not be prepared to do this. (Island & Lettelier, 1991; Cruz, 2003) They may not even think about going to the police for protection. Even within the gay and lesbian community, domestic violence is a largely suppressed issue. An explanation is the prevention of the further antagonism of the community. Reports of domestic violence in the gay and lesbian community would further complicate attempts of the community to foster community acceptance. It was only in the late 1990s that domestic violence in same sex relationships started to receive due consideration.
(Renzetti, 1996) Nevertheless, as long as the issue remains problematic on the part of the victims and the gay and lesbian community, reporting to domestic violence cases to the polices in homosexual relationships would remain nil. Second is the lack or limited services available to gays and lesbians who have experienced domestic abuse. Lack of knowledge or non-existence of venues for reporting domestic violence could be a reason for the failure or reluctance of gays and lesbians who are victims of domestic violence to report the abuse.
(Peterman & Jackson, 2003; Brown, 2008) Although there are help desks for women in police stations catering to gendered issues such as victims of domestic violence these are not commonly thought of as also available to gay and lesbian victims of domestic violence. These desks or sub-sectors of the police do not explicitly ban gays and lesbians or make services exclusive to women but the perception about the services offered and the people to whom the services were intended apparently do not include gays and lesbians who have experienced abuse.
Of course, reports could be lodged with the police but these are likely considered as other crimes such as physical injuries instead of the more defined crime of domestic violence. In effect, even if homosexual victims make the report, they may not receive sufficient services for victims of domestic violence such as counseling and advice on the legal processes. This could be the reason why many opt not to take the risk of prejudice involved in reporting the crime and not receiving any support.
Moreover, the slow response of the gay and lesbian community towards domestic violence has resulted to a small number of support groups that could help victims learn about remedies commencing with the report of the abuse to the police (Renzetti, 1996). Third is the lack of sensitization of health care workers, law enforcement personnel, and criminal justice professionals regarding domestic violence experienced by homosexual partners. In the case of medical workers, most have not received orientation or learning about domestic violence between same sex couples and the manner of dealing with the issue when raised to them.
This means that they cannot give advice to victims on the remedies available to them or coordinate with law enforcement authorities in handling the issue. With regard to law enforcement officers, they could be hesitant to take reports because of uncertainty on how to handle the issue because of non-recognition of domestic violence among homosexual partners. (Renzetti, 1996; Roberts, 2002; Brown, 2008) In addition, law enforcement and criminal justice workers that are homophobic could disregard the issue altogether resulting to the re-victimization of the victim through discrimination.
The police force carries a very macho culture so that gay men, who are victims of domestic violence, although by another gay partner, may be ridiculed or ill-treated. It is the risk of experiencing these adverse attitudes and behavior from the police together with the fear of stigma that dissuades victims of homosexual domestic violence to report the abuse to the police. (Renzetti, 1996; Roberts, 2002; Brown, 2008) Conclusion Victims of domestic abuse in a homosexual relationship fail or become reluctant to report abuse to the police, more so than victims of heterosexual domestic violence, because of a number of multi-dimensional reasons.
Victims have to publicly deal with their homosexuality in reporting the abuse and many are not prepared for this. There is also limited support from the gay and lesbian community that for a long time has suppressed the occurrence of domestic violence among homosexual partners. There is also fear of stigma and discrimination by police officers in reporting the incident. These reasons imply that the addressing domestic violence in the case of homosexual or same sex partners would also be multi-dimensional. The solution involves change in the perception of society towards homosexuality, albeit a difficult feat.
The gay and lesbian community also needs to rationalize and clarify issues relating to domestic violence to establish support for victims. Police officers require sensitization towards homosexual domestic violence in order to fulfill their duty of protecting individuals regardless of their sexual preference.
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