Case Study #10 - Sue
Sue comes to us today reporting an incidence of abuse in her current same-sex relationship with a woman named Marsha. Sue is an out of state college freshman currently enrolled at a local university. The client reports, she chose to attend this particular college in order to keep her parents in the dark about her sexual orientation fearing they would cut her off financially based on their strict religious values against homosexuality. Sue claims, she was previously in a healthy relationship with an older woman, but it ended abruptly leaving her feeling lonely and isolated. Now, Sue is in a new relationship with a woman named Marsha. They have been dating for a little over a month. Sue stated, Marsha has started to act “irritated” and “irrational” towards her, periodically calling her names and shoving her for no reason then apologizing and giving presenting her with gifts. Most recently, Sue reports Marsha accused her of flirting with another woman and then immediately slapped her several times. Sue claim’s this event was unprovoked. Lastly, Sue reports, she has become scared of Marsha and wants to end the relationship but doesn’t know how to without risking retaliation.
Current and Potential Abuse Issues
In reviewing Sue’s case it is clear there are several presenting abuse issues. Sue’s intake suggests her current relationship dynamic with Marsha is unhealthy and potentially dangerous. Marsha’s unpredictable behavior and sometimes-violent outbursts are characteristics of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). IPV that occurs within same-sex couples is referred to as Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence or SSIPV. SSIPV can be defined as “a means to control others through power, including physical and psychological threats (verbal and nonverbal) or injury (to the victim or others), isolation, economic deprivation, heterosexist control, sexual assault, vandalism, or any combination of methods” (T.W. Burke, 1998 p. 164: National Coalition of anti violence Programs [NCAVP], 2001). In the case of Sue and Marsha: Marsha’s abusive behavior towards Sue, i.e. slapping, shoving and threatening her, suggests Marsha is the perpetrator and Sue is the victim in this situation. During the initial intake, the client also reported Marsha accused her of “flirting with another woman” and then slapped her several times. This display of aggression and jealousy is also an indicator of SSIPV. This particular form of jealousy is called possessive jealousy and it entails “an individuals inclination to actually prevent his/her mate from having contact with a potential romantic rival.” (Buunk, 1997) (p. 518). Marsha’s irrational behavior and inconsistent treatment of Sue, i.e. slapping Sue then bringing her doughnuts the next morning further point towards patters of SSIPV and suggests Sue could be at risk for becoming a victim of female-to-female assault if she does not leave the relationship (Osthoff, 2002). In addition to identifying SSIPV in this case, the clients age (17-18) and stage of life (college freshman) suggests she could also be a victim of Dating Violence (DV). Sugarman & Hotalings (1989), define DV as “the perpetration of physical, emotional or threat abuse by at least one member of an unmarried dating couple” (p. 5). Sue reports, Marsha and her have been seeing each other for a little over a month. Based on this report their status could be seen as “dating” and not as “in a relationship”. This distinction is important in defining the type and severity of abuse Sue is experiencing which will effect the recommendations for her treatment.
Ethical Considerations /State & Federal Laws
There are many ethical considerations when addressing cases of Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence. It is important to note there have been far less studies conducted on homosexual IPV couples then on heterosexual IPV couples. The main reason for this has been because until recent years, gays and lesbians have...
References: Murray, C.E., & Mobley, A.K. (2009). Empirical research about same-sex intimate partner violence: A methodological review. Journal of Homosexuality, 56(3), 361-386. doi: 10.1080/00918360902728848.
Stith, S.M., Rosen, K.H., McCollum, E.E., & Thompson, C.J. (2004). Treating intimate
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Heyman, R.E., & Schlee, K. (2003). Stopping wife abuse via Physical Aggression
Stevens, B., & Arnstein, M. (2011). Happy Ever After?: A Practical Guide to Relationship Counselling for Clinical Psychologists. Australian Academic Press.
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