Lesbian moms vulnerable when abused, reluctant to seek help

Feb 22, 2011

Lesbian moms who are experiencing intimate partner violence are often reluctant to seek help for fear of losing custody of their children, said two University of Illinois professors.

"A lesbian mom's abuse situation is unique in that she fears losing her kids to the biological father or the state instead of the abuser," said Jennifer Hardesty, a U of I associate professor of family studies.

The study, the first to examine help-seeking for intimate among lesbian or bisexual mothers, appears in the January 2011 issue of Violence Against Women.

The researchers recruited 24 mothers who had been abused by a same-sex partner and interviewed them about their experiences. On average, the women had been in their relationship for six years.

"Many of the mothers in the study believed that people were prejudiced against them, and they assumed that people with power would use that prejudice to hurt them. That perception inhibited their willingness to openly seek help," said Ramona Faith Oswald, a U of I associate professor of family studies and co-author of the study.

Oswald stressed that the vulnerability of these mothers has real consequences for the moms and their kids. That vulnerability could be remedied by support for these families and recognizing that lesbian women in this situation are as deserving of help as anyone else, she added.

"We learned that you can't assume these women will be direct in the way they ask for help. That's why it's important that , police officers, and other agencies that assist victims of intimate partner violence be aware of this issue," she added.

Of the mothers in the study, 11 sought help openly from police, health providers, and professionals. Six mothers sought help without revealing the violence because they felt ashamed of being abused by a woman partner—"I thought a female-female relationship was supposed to be nurturing"— and six others tried to solve the problem alone, mostly because they were closeted and had no support from friends and family.

One woman who sought help had no qualms about calling the police to remove the abuser from her property. At the same time, she hid the abuse from the father of her children.

"My children are everything to me. He does make considerably more money than I do, and he's remarried and . . . it's like a perfect home life, a perfect situation. I just could not fathom if I lost them [the kids], let alone if I lost them because of the abuse. So I hid a lot from him," she said.

Unlike other mothers, the lesbian moms who sought help didn't discuss their children with the helper very much. "That's worth following up on. Do the kids fade into the background in these discussions because the mothers fear losing custody?" Hardesty said.

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

More information: The study is available online at vaw.sagepub.com/content/17/1/28.full.pdf+html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Abused women seek more infant health care, study finds

Dec 16, 2008

Pregnant women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) before, during or after pregnancy often suffer adverse health effects, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and chronic mental illness. ...

Violence against women impairs children's health

Sep 11, 2008

Violence against women in a family also has serious consequences for the children's growth, health, and survival. Kajsa Åsling Monemi from Uppsala University has studied women and their children in Bangladesh and Nicaragua ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

17 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

17 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

19 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

19 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

User comments : 0