Unlike the theories about male-female violence, understanding violence in lesbian relationships had often ignored external structural causes of violence and put more emphasis on internal imbalances of power between the partners. One of the often discussed subject is the problem of mutual battering which has become the subject of debate between researchers. In our research we have encountered one case in which it was unclear whether it was a case of mutual battering or not, and in which the victim lessened the violence she experienced because she thought she also contributed to it. For that reason we would like to bring up this discussion by presenting several opposed opinions on the subject and warn about some potentially dangerous misconceptions. Firstly, we will present the approach of researchers Marrujo, Kreger and Fox who endorse the idea that mutual combat in lesbian relationship is relatively frequent and therefore this has specific implications for the research methodology and terminology. They believe that the terminology should be more descriptive and the interviews with victims more focused on their subjective experience in order to avoid losing some potentially relevant information about the nature of the violence by imposing the researcher’s definitions of abusive relationships or domestic violence. In the following sections, some of the critiques of this approach and the how is it potentially harmful for the victims as well as for the general understanding of partner violence among lesbian couples, will be presented though the contributions made by Asheran, Peterman, Dixon and Lobel.
Researchers Becky Marrujo and Mary Kreger suggest that studies investigating violence in same-sex relationships, instead of focusing on determining the role of the abuser and that of the victim, should instead take into account the high percentage of abused women, regardless of their sexual orientation, who use physical violence themselves in their relationships. Namely, they have found that 34% of women in violent relationships report fighting back with the intent to hurt the partner. For that reason they introduced the category of the ‘participant role’ to describe the situation in which both partners share the role of the victim and that of the abuser. They also offered some tools for identifying the roles of the partners and mutual combat, as for instance this set of questions: