Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Intimate partner violence within LGBTIQ relationships is known to occur at a similar rate to heterosexual relationships.

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence, regardless of the sex or gender of the person perpetrating it, is a pattern of behaviour in which coercion or violence is used to gain or maintain power or control. This is not limited to physical violence, but also emotional, sexual or economic abuse. If you are experiencing abuse, it may feel confusing or shameful; you may still love the person using abusive behaviour and not know what to do. Remember, being subject to abuse is NEVER your fault.

The situation can often be more difficult for LGBTIQ people experiencing intimate partner violence, as widespread heterosexism and homophobia limits the social support one might receive. Queer relationships are often already stigmatised in South Africa, social services may be ill-equipped to appropriately respond, and police may be dismissive or even abusive if violence is reported. The dominant discourse surrounding IPV is framed around men committing violence against heterosexual women. Many health care workers, social workers, and police may not believe that women are able to perpetrate abuse against another female partner, or that men can be subject to abuse, leading to a lack of understanding, ridicule and minimising violence in LGBTIQ relationships.

We would encourage anyone at risk of intimate partner violence to reach out for support using the resources listed below.

What does it look like?

Intimate partner violence that LGBTIQ people might experience can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional and psychological abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Social abuse

Examples of intimate partner violence may look like:

  • Using someone’s HIV status or sexuality to ‘out’ them to friends, family or employers
  • Not respecting their right to say ‘No’ to sex
  • Controlling omeone’s access to medications
  • Gaslighting—making someone doubt their own version of events, making the victim out to be a liar or to have a mental health condition
  • Controlling someone’s access to their own finances or payments to ensure financial dependence

What can I do?

If you think you are experiencing violence from your partner there are a few steps you can take to seek support. Consider discussing your situation with a trusted friend or family member. Experiencing violence in a relationship can be very isolating, and breaking that isolation can help you decide on the best path to take moving forward.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to, or you feel that reaching out to people you know may be too exposing or increase your risk of violence, you can contact a number of organisations and services that can offer you support.

If there is an immediate threat to your safety call the police on 10111, or contact your local police station. See the Western Cape Emergency contact numbers here, which you might want to save in your phone.

Where can I get support?

Triangle Project has extensive experience supporting people experiencing violence and trauma. We also work closely with other services providers that help people experiencing intimate partner violence.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help.

IPV Research

Read Triangle Project’s research report “I’m your maker”: Power, heteronormativity and violence in women’s same-sex relationships, which responds to the knowledge gap and contributes to an improved understanding of intimate partner violence experienced by queer women in their same-sex relationships.