Hart family

The tragic Hart family cliff crash is renewing debate about homosexual adoptions.

Lesbian couple Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart drove off a cliff in Mendocino, Ca. after fleeing their Woodland, Washington home amid suspicions of child abuse and neglect. Police believe all six of their adopted children were killed when the SUV went over the cliff.

Investigators are trying to determine how the two women, who have never been to Texas, managed to adopt six special needs children from the Texas area.

Adoption records are sealed by the courts, so it may be difficult to determine if state adoption officials gave the couple special preference because they were lesbians.

Police believe Jennifer Hart was driving the SUV when it crashed sometime after March 25. She was accused of abusing her children, and police believe she may have also inflicted violence on her partner, Sarah Hart.

Domestic violence experts say it is unusual for women to kill their entire families.

David Adams, a domestic violence expert who did not know the Harts, says it is doubtful that Sarah Hart took part in Jennifer’s heinous plan to wipe out her family.

“It’s far more likely that this was a unilateral decision by the abusive partner to take out the whole family, basically,” he said.

Hannah Scott, a professor of criminology in Ontario, published the only research specifically studying female family annihilators.

Scott said men are typically fueled by revenge or anger, but women who kill their families may be suffering from mental illness or a delayed reaction to past battery or abuse.

Women annihilators also kill their children to keep someone else from getting custody of them.

“Real or imagined concerns about losing custody of the children may also be a trigger for female family annihilators,” said Scott, whose study documented just seven female annihilators over 40 years in the U.S.

There are no studies on same-sex couples adopting children and subjecting them to violence.

Scott said researchers should look more closely at same-sex relationships and domestic violence. “It’s an area that is understudied,” she said.

Past studies have shown that women in same-sex relationships inflict more violence on their domestic partners than male same-sex couples.

Those same studies show that lesbians tend to be more violent toward their domestic partners than heterosexual couples.

“Abuse is not about violence; it’s about control,” says Beth Leventhal, executive director of The Network/La Red in Boston. “You can be just as controlling of someone if you are small — as if you’re large. It’s about using violence or any other means of gaining and maintaining control.”

During the Obama administration, there was increased funding to address LGBT concerns, according to the Advocate. It isn’t clear if the funding addressed the rampant mental illness that is prevalent in the LGBT community.