Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In light of evidence suggesting that violence between lesbian couples is often times dismissed as “mutually combative,” expectations that support this perception were examined in the present study. T"> this end, undergraduate participants (N = 287) read a newspaper brief describing an incident of domestic violence taking place within the context of a lesbian partnership. As gender-based stereotypes guide not only expectations for the behavior of lesbians, but their appearance as well, participants were shown pictures of both the alleged victim and accused that varied in terms of how feminine or masculine they appeared.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of five domestic violence batterer- victim conditions: Masculine-Feminine, Masculine-Masculine, Feminine-Feminine, Feminine- Masculine and No Picture control. Participants were then asked to rate both the alleged victim and accused on a variety of measures including perceptions of responsibility and plausibility of the incident. Results indicated that the feminine appearing victim was more likely than the “masculine” appearing victim to be blamed for her own abuse. Among women, the victim tended to be believed more overall, however, victims claims were more supported when their abuser is characterized as masculine. These data support heterosexually-biased presumption in lesbian relationships. Implications of this research as well as future directions are discussed.