Female Same-sex Intimate Partner Violence in China: State, Culture, Family, and Gender

Ming LUO, Tuen Yi CHIU

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CASE STUDY: "SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO YOU!" After 2 years in a same-​ sex relationship, An wanted to break up with Mo because Mo was abusively controlling her in the relationship. With fierce opposition to An’s decision, Mo smashed a window glass in their rented apartment in Beijing. She started to send An messages with threats or hints of harm. Mo even told An to “make a will . . . in case something bad will happen to you.” Although An was afraid of Mo, she also worried about Mo’s psychological and emotional well-​ being. Because Mo showed signs of hysteria, An worried that Mo would go to extremes, such as inflicting self-​ harm or committing suicide, to keep An in the relationship. At first, An decided to endure Mo’s insults and aggression with the hope that her tolerance would pacify Mo. So again and again, An forgave Mo’s violent acts, including sexual abuse and stalking, and satisfied Mo’s requests in exchange for a peaceful breakup. Mo, however, did not keep her promises to let An go but repeatedly towed An back to their miserable and abusive relationship. An tried to secretly move out and stay with her mother but failed because Mo threatened to publicly reveal her homosexual identity to shame her family. Out of anger and coercive control, when An returned to their rented apartment one day, Mo seized the chance to lock An in the bedroom. An was confined for 2 days until she managed to call her friends for help. Realizing the danger in staying with Mo, An eventually sought help from a nongovernmental organization (NGO). OVERVIEW An’s story exemplifies a common scenario in which intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in a same-​ sex relationship. IPV refers to “a pattern of behaviour where one intimate partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship” (National Coalition of Anti-​Violence Programs, 2016, p. 11). It encompasses an array of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic abuses (Hattery, 2009), as well as stalking and control of reproductive or sexual health (Black et al., 2011). Although IPV is widely recognized as a type of gender-​ based violence that originated in women’s subordination under men in gender relations (Ellsberg & Heise, 2005), it by no means implies that it does not exist in non-​ heterosexual intimate relationships. Due to the stereotypical perception that IPV only occurs in heterosexual relationships and that it is perpetrated by men, IPV in same-​ sex relationships remains a hidden phenomenon. In recent decades, some scholars started to acknowledge that IPV in same-​ sex relationships is a universal and significant social and public health issue that profoundly affects the physical, emotional, and psychological well-​ being of men and women in same-​ sex relationships. Evidence from existing studies suggests that the prevalence of IPV is as high or even higher in same-​ sex relationships than in heterosexual relationships (Brown & Herman, 2015; Goldberg & Meyer, 2013; Hester & Donovan, 2009; Leonard, Mitchell, Pitts, Patel, & Fox, 2008; Messinger, 2011; Walters, Chen, & Breiding, 2013). Considering that men and women in same-​ sex relationships do not experience IPV in a similar manner, this chapter specifically focuses on female same-​ sex intimate partner violence (FSSIPV). A review of the prevalence of FSSIPV reported in existing studies conducted throughout the world is provided next.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen's Journey to Empowerment in the 21st Century : A Transnational Feminist Analysis of Women's Lives in Modern Times
EditorsKristen ZALESKI, Annalisa ENRILE, Eugenia L. WEISS, Xiying WANG
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190927103
ISBN (Print)9780190927097
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Publication series

NameInterpersonal Violence
PublisherOxford University Press


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