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An Interview with Janice Ristock
Many feminists believe that lesbians who engage in violent behaviour attack their female partners in the same ways that heterosexual men do. Others, trying to preserve a utopian vision of female love, may beliveve the dynamic is entirely different. Janice Ristock wants e feminist and lesbian communities to let go of simple theories in order to face the complex realities of violence in lesbian relationships. The University of Manitoba women's studies professor is one of the first researchers to extensively interview lesbians who have suffered abuse and the women who work with them as therapists or shelter staff. Her book, No More Secrets: Violence in Lesbian Relationships, was published by Routledge in 2002.
Herizons: A decade ago, you and a couple of colleagues put together a booklet on abuse in lesbian relationships that Health Canada still distributes. What do you know now that you didn't know then?
RISTOCK: I think that booklet is still a useful resource, but the way we wrote it was to rely on a lot of information and research that feminists generated for violence in heterosexual relationships.
We assumed that there was one main experience of domestic violence that's applicable to all women-one reaction to being victimized and one mindset of perpetrators.
What I learned through doing research is that not all violence in lesbian and heterosexual relationships is the same. I began to look more at the contexts surrounding abusive relationships--contexts like isolation and invisibility for lesbian couples. Or contexts where women had experienced a lifetime of violence and poverty and where this experience was just one piece. Or contexts of drugs and alcohol.
What unique weapons do lesbians have at their disposal for hurting or controlling their partners?
RISTOCK: The tools of homophobia are unique weapons. A number of women talked about the ways their partners would threaten …