Persad Center

Strengthening the Region’s LGBTQ Communities and Their Allies

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Strengthening the Region’s LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS-impacted Communities

Responding to Domestic Violence in Same-sex Couples

FROM LEFT: Kalem Wright is the group facilitator for the Intimate Partner Abuse Program, and Bob Moore is PERSAD’s Clinical Supervisor

Since 1999, PERSAD CENTER’s Intimate Partner Abuse Program (IPAP) has been working to eliminate or reduce same-sex domestic violence. Recognizing PERSAD’s expertise and experience in working with the LGBTQ community, the Allegheny County Court system selected PERSAD as an approved referral source in July 2013 to deliver counseling and intervention services to individuals involved in same-sex domestic violence.

When most people hear about domestic violence, they likely imagine a heterosexual couple. Yet abuse and violence in same-sex couples is prevalent as well. While there are common elements to all abusive relationships, there are some critical differences for same-sex couples that require specialized understanding and intervention. That’s where PERSAD CENTER’s Intimate Partner Abuse Program comes in.

How is same-sex domestic violence different?

Violence in same-sex couples is often connected to internalized homophobia, generated by a lifetime of non-acceptance by others. While this is not an excuse for violent or battering behavior, the IPAP requires individuals to address self-acceptance. Other differences include:

  • Same-sex batterers may use the threat of “outing” their partners to others as a way of gaining control.
  • LGBTQ victims are less likely to contact police for intervention because of the LGBTQ communities’ historic mistrust of police.
  • A variety of financial and legal rights differences between heterosexual married couples and same-sex couples provide opportunities for batterers to utilize emotional and financial threats to control victims, and increase the fear of victims to leave the relationship or disclose the abuse.

How does the Intimate Partner Abuse Program work?

At the core of PERSAD’s Intimate Partner Abuse Program is the requirement that offenders participate in 20 weeks of group counseling with other court-referred offenders. The group dynamic is a powerful setting for individuals to share stories and confront their violent behavior. In sharing with others who have committed acts of violence, participants learn how to improve communication skills and better manage anger and other complicated emotions.   

Preventing future violence and abuse

The IPAP is ultimately about ending domestic violence and helping both victims and batterers to lead safe, healthy lives. The program gives offenders the opportunity to demonstrate to the courts that they have changed their behavior. Since 1999 PERSAD has seen 75% of the participants successfully complete the program, and 83% of them have not been rearrested during the course of six months of follow-up.

Support for victims and families

While the Intimate Partner Abuse Program is specifically for court-referred perpetrators of violence, PERSAD CENTER also offers a variety of programs and services to support victims of violence. Individuals, couples and families who need help addressing domestic violence can contact PERSAD at 1-888-873-7723.