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Domestic Violence and the Gay Community: A Right to Peace and Safety
© Dr. Amy Menna & Gift From Within
Every human being has a right to peace and safety.
Every individual has a right to be free from coercion from anyone. They deserve to live their lives with integrity and free will. They deserve to be free of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. They have a right to not only be safe in their home, but to feel safe as well.
Each gay or lesbian human being has a right to express themselves without fear of retribution or discrimination. They have the right to be open with their sexuality. They also have the right to choose to use discretion without the threats from individuals to expose them. They have the right to be in a loving relationship without fear.
Domestic violence is the absence of these rights. It is not an issue solely for heterosexual couples. The gay and lesbian community is not exempt from this problem. Under the cloak of secrecy, domestic violence has permeated the gay and lesbian community at the same rate as it has the heterosexual community. There are similarities as well as differences between the LGBT and heterosexual communities. The LGBT community has the added stigma and limited protection creating a unique struggle.
THE UNIQUE NATURE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE GAY COMMUNITY
Many facets of domestic violence are the same in the LGBT community as in the heterosexual one. There are, however, some unique features with LGBT individuals. The LGBT community as well as the heterosexual community needs to be aware of the topic of Domestic Violence. In addition, protective measures need to be taken to safeguard this marginalized population.
In heterosexual relationships, it is often the male who abuses the female (although this is not always the case). However, in LGBT relationships, this power differential is less apparent. Seeing that there is no "male-female" dynamic, many individuals believe that the behavior is mutual. This leads to discrimination against the victim of the abuse suggesting that he or she had a "part" in the abuse.
Utilization of services in the LGBT community is limited. LGBT individuals are often hesitant to attend support groups or go to a shelter as these are typically geared towards heterosexual individuals. Often these individuals may feel that they have to lie about their orientation therefore hiding the gender of the abuser. In addition, they may also have to face coming out to other individuals whether it be police, friends, support group members, or individuals at a shelter. This may preclude them from receiving legal or other services. This results in less utilization of services and places them at more risk for abuse.
Many myths surround the LGBT community. There is a myth among many heterosexuals that LGBT relationships are not normal. In fact, it may be viewed as an aberration. A victim may not want to perpetuate the myth that LGBT relationships are abnormal further stigmatizing the LGBT community. As in heterosexual couples, fear of exposure may be fear of humiliation or potential for escalated abuse.
The support for the LGBT community is lacking. Social circles may be small and limited to other LGBT individuals. As such, there may be an added stigma to abuse. Support may be difficult to find as many may know the abuser. It is also often difficult to start a new life within the same intimate community. In addition, unlike heterosexual individuals, it may be more difficult for an LGBT victim to minority individual experiencing the same circumstances.
One weapon of abuse includes economic power. There is often no formal combining of finances thereby making it easier for the abuser to control the economic circumstances. Often the abuser puts assets in their own name and debt in the victim's name. This leads to greater fear of economic struggle if the victim chooses to leave. There is not a legal process to assist in the separation as is the case if individuals are legally married. In addition there are laws that protect heterosexual individuals that preclude same-sex relationships. Without legal statutes geared towards the LGBT community, they are left vulnerable to abuse without protection.
SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
The number of studies designed to measure domestic violence in the LGBT community pale in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. However, studies indicate the prevalence to be equal between the LGBT community and the heterosexual community. Results from the National Violence Against Women survey indicated that gay males are more at risk than a gay females. Approximately 23% of gay males studied reported to having been raped, physically assaulted, and / or stalked by another gay male. Slightly more than 11% of gay females also reported the same circumstances. With a victimization rate of approximately 10 to 25 percent, the statistics for either being abused or knowing someone who has been abused is alarming.
DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The definition of domestic violence is when one seeks to control the thoughts and behaviors of the other partner. It is about power and control. It entails a pattern of violence where one seeks to control the thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of their intimate partner as well punishing the partner for resisting their control. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It often includes physical violence where one person believes they are entitled to such control. Domestic violence often carries no visible signs. Although physical and sexual abuse is common, many types of control are non-physical such as emotional, psychological, or economic abuse.
Scott has been living with his partner, David, for over a year. Scott is a police officer therefore has chosen not to be "out" at work. David is a school teacher. Scott always viewed David as "opinionated" but lately he has become more and more demanding. One day Scott had to work overtime to complete some paperwork. When Scott came home, David was furious and started yelling at him that he was having an affair. Scott did his best to explain where he was and what he was doing. David insisted that Scott was having an affair. As David began to argue with Scott, David proceeded to tell him "I don't know why anyone would have an affair with you with a body like that. When was the last time you even thought to work out?" He continued to degrade Scott and eventually picked up the phone and threatened to call Scott's captain and tell him that he is gay.
Above is an example of emotional abuse. It can be more subtle than physical abuse making it harder to recognize. This does not make it is any less damaging. Emotional and psychological abuse takes place when abusers attempt to control the thoughts and self-esteem of the victim. Examples of emotional abuse are as followed;