What Blocked Heterosexual Women and Lesbians in Leaving Their Abusive Relationships

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Previous studies have shown that the process of permanently separating from an abusive partner is in many ways similar for heterosexual women and lesbians. However, research suggests that factors that prevent women from leaving the relationship differ.

OBJECTIVE

In this study, the component of ambivalence related to leaving the abusive relationship is referred to as “holding back.” Factors that contribute to “holding back” lesbians and heterosexual women leaving their abusive relationships are examined.

DESIGN

Naturalistic inquiry is conducted on 10 heterosexual women and 20 lesbians who were able to leave their abusive relationships.

RESULTS

Factors that contribute to the women's staying in their abusive relationship are personal and situational, in additional to cultural factors such as homophobia and “lesbian ideals.”

CONCLUSIONS

Recommendations include dissemination of information addressing the levels and complexity of abuse and the need for education regarding occurrence of abuse in both heterosexual and lesbian relationships.

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