When law enforcement, government agencies, and people generally think of domestic abuse an image of a heterosexual couple is immediately cast. It’s traditionally assumed that the abuser is the male partner and the victim is the female partner. The ugly truth is that domestic violence occurs at similar rates among LGBTQ as heterosexual people. According to 2012 Center for American Progress study, one in four same-sex couples have experienced domestic violence– the same for heterosexual females.

Though patterns of domestic violence involving physical, emotional, and verbal abuse all share many common characteristics, same-sex couples often face additional threats simply due to their sexuality. The closeted victim in a same-sex relationship may be threatened by the abuser that their sexuality will be exposed to their family, employer, friends, classmates, or their community. Many victims – heterosexual or homosexual – fear speaking to law enforcement but those in the homosexual community have the additional “coming out” component which further prevents them from speaking out.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, you have the same rights and means of protection as any other victim. If you, a loved one, or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, know what to do. The victim can file a Protective Order or Peace Order depending on the relationship they maintain with their abuser. In either case, the order is signed by a judge and instructs the abuser to stop committing a specific act or set of acts and can impose additional requirements.

To be eligible for a Protective Order you must fall within one of the following relationship categories:

a) current or former spouse

b) residing together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days within the year of filing

c) related by blood, marriage, or adoption

d) having a parent-child or stepparent-stepchild relationship and residing together for at least 90 days within the year of filing

e) have a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship

f) be parents of a child together, and/or

g) have had a sexual relationship within a year of filing.

If you do not meet one of those requirements, then you will need to file for a Peace Order. A Peace Order is a form of protection for anyone who is experiencing some sort of problem with an individual. When filing a Peace Order the relationship between the parties is not a factor.

What a judge can and cannot order also varies based on the type of order requested. In both cases, a judge can order the abuser to stop abusing you and to stay away. In the case of a Peace Order, a judge can also order counseling, mediation, and for the abuser to pay the court costs and filing fees. Because a Protective Order involves more intimate relationships, a judge can also impose more restrictions and make additional awards. For example, a Protective Order can award temporary custody or visitation, emergency family maintenance (or, financial support) to be paid by the abuser, award possession of any pet, award use and possession of a jointly titled car, etc. It can also order the abuser to stay out of the marital home, stay away from your child’s school, and to stay away from and not contact family members.

You did not ask to become a victim of domestic violence. You did not ask to become a victim. If you find yourself in that position, knowing what rights and opportunities you have to protect yourself and loved ones is important.