so the other day i made a post about the following widely circulated sentence:
Bisexual women in relationships with monosexual partners have an increased rate of domestic violence compared to women in other demographic categories.
i took issue with the way it made no distinction between lesbian partners and straight male partners, and i also wondered about the data behind this claim; was there really a study that grouped bi women’s partners by “monosexuality”? what was the gender breakdown of these abusive partners? what did the numbers look like for bisexual partners? etc.
so i looked into it. the sentence seems to originate from a 2011 publication by the san francisco human rights commission called "Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations" (pdf), on page 11. it is presented as one of “just a few examples from recent large-scale studies,” and the footnote given cites three sources: a 2007 report from the national gay and lesbian task force called "Bisexual health: An introduction and model practices for HIV/STD prevention programming" (pdf); a 2010 study called “Men’s sexual orientation and health in Canada” which is pretty clearly not the source for this claim about bi women; and a 2009 study called "Women’s Sexual Orientation and Health: Results from a Canadian Population-Based Survey."
the latter source deals only with physical and mental health outcomes and health risk behaviors (e.g. hypertension, anxiety disorders, and drinking), and does not mention domestic violence or other abuse at all. the former source does mention domestic violence (pp. 25-26) but offers no statistics on bi women’s rates of domestic violence compared to other groups, and says, “we have no large scale government studies of how many bisexuals face domestic violence, sexual assault, murder, police misconduct and other types of crime.” additionally, none of its many references seem, at a glance, likely to shed light on this specific question.
so as far as i can tell, the sources provided to back up this quote do not actually support it; it is a claim without a citation.
of course, there is other data on domestic violence and sexual orientation; one source is the cdc’s 2010 national intimate partner and sexual violence survey (NISVS), though it is not cited anywhere in the report. this is survey data that has not been controlled for race, class, or other potentially significant factors, so as always it’s best to exercise caution when interpreting it. it does find a higher rate of physical violence by an intimate partner among bisexual women (56.9% compared to 40.4% of lesbians and 32.3% of straight women; p. 18). but this includes ALL PARTNERS; it does NOT break down violent partners by sexual orientation, “monosexual” or otherwise.
it does, however, break them down by sex, showing that 89.5% of bisexual women reported only male perpetrators (p. 27). i believe this illustrates the dangers of treating straight men and lesbians as an undifferentiated group, especially in order to claim that lesbians are privileged by bi women’s abuse (which is often the context in which this quote is employed).
in conclusion, despite reading all the provided citations, as well as other possible sources, i have been unable to find substantiation for the claim that bi women face increased domestic violence at the hands of specifically “monosexual” partners. further, i believe that this quote’s failure to distinguish between bi women’s male and female partners is misleading and harmful, and that this provides an instructive example of why we should maintain a healthy skepticism when we encounter widely circulated, rarely cited soundbites like this one.