What is Partner Abuse?

Partner abuse is a systematic pattern of behaviors where one person non-consensually uses power to try to control the thoughts, beliefs, actions, body, and/or spirit of a partner.*

Partner abuse is also called domestic violence, battering, intimate partner violence, and/or dating abuse. Partner abuse happens in all communities. It crosses all social, ethnic, racial, age, and economic lines. Size, strength, age, politics, gender presentation and expression, or personality does not determine whether someone can be abused or an abuser. Abuse is NOT more or less common in LGBQ/T relationships.

*By “partner,” we are referring to a range of intimate relationships including but not limited to play partner; date; primary, secondary, or other non-monogamous partner; spouse; sexual partner; boyfriend/girlfriend; boo; hookup; life partner; lover.

You may be experiencing abuse if you feel like:

  • Your life is smaller
  • You can’t see family or friends because of your partner’s jealousy or anger
  • You have to change your behavior to avoid a crisis
  • You’re unsure where an SM scene begins or ends
  • You’re confined to only doing things your partner wants
  • Your partner makes all the decisions in the relationship.

Cycle of Abuse:

  1. Honeymoon Phase: This is how the relationship starts. The abusive partner can be charming, charismatic, sincere, and sexy.
  2. Tension Building: The abusive partner starts to use subtle controlling behaviors like guilt or blame. You might feel like you are walking on eggshells. Survivors often become aware of their own behavior and try to do things to avoid conflict or “not get in trouble.”
  3. Explosive Incident: The abusive partner uses a tactic or multiple tactics of abuse to control you. At this point you may be ready to leave or start questioning the relationship.
  4. Hearts and Flowers: The abusive partner tries to prevent you from leaving by becoming the same person you fell in love with. They may do nice things for you, buy you flowers, take you out, etc., or just apologize for the abuse. Your partner may claim, “This will never happen again” or “I will get help” or blames the abuse on drugs, alcohol, or stress. Although the abusive partner seems to be acting nice, they are still trying to control you. You may feel relief that the explosive incident is over and that everything seems to be okay again but then the tension builds again, and the cycle is often repeated over and over again, more rapidly over time.

If this sounds familiar to you, you can get support. The Network/La Red is an organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender survivors of partner abuse, as well as survivors in the poly or SM communities. Many of us are LGBQ/T, and survivors ourselves. We can help you talk through your concerns and connect you to services that may be helpful to you such as support groups, restraining orders, or confidential shelter.

You don’t have to leave or even want to leave to get support. Call our 24-hour free and confidential hotline.

Voice: 617-742-4911Toll Free: 800-832-1901

Learn more about the cycle and tactics of abuse by downloading our campaign visuals and/or requesting our materials. To request a training, click here.

Partner Abuse in LGBQ/T Communities

Partner Abuse in SM Communities

Partner Abuse in Polyamorous Communities