- 1 in 4 gay men have experienced domestic violence
- 1 in 7 gay men have been in physically violent relationshipsAny incident intended to have an impact on those who are, or perceived to be, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgender people.
- Only 1% of gay men list the police or the DA's office as a resource for gay male victims.
The media constantly portrays domestic violence as a heterosexual experience. Literature uses male pronouns to describe batterers and female pronouns to describe victims. The terms 'domestic violence' and 'violence against women' have become interchangeable. As a result, people who interact with victims frequently are unaware of the existence of domestic violence in the gay community.
The gay community also fails to recognize same-sex domestic violence. Gay men are subjected to the same stereotypical messages about domestic violence and, consequently, have difficulty identifying themselves as victims.
Without education, many gay men may stay in dangerous or life-threatening situations due to the inability to label their experience as domestic violence. Not until it is labeled will they seek to access the help and information they need. For this reason, professionals who interact with victims need to be aware of the reality of domestic violence within the gay community. They should also be prepared to do additional outreach and provide education to help the gay men they may encounter to identify domestic violence.
Myths about Domestic Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities:
- Myth 1: Only straight women get battered. Men are not victims of domestic violence, and women never batter.
- Myth 2: Domestic violence is more common in straight relationships than in same sex relationships.
- Myth 3: It really isn't violence when a same-sex couple fights. It's just a lover's quarrel, a fair fight between equals.
- Myth 4: It really isn't violence when gay men fight. It's boys being boys. A man should be able to defend himself.
- Myth 5: The batterer is always bigger, stronger, and more 'butch'. Victims will always be smaller, younger, weaker, and more feminine.
- Myth 6: It only happens when drugs are involved. So that's the problem, not the battering.
- Myth 7: Domestic violence primarily occurs among people of color, those who hang out in bars, or those, or those from poor or working class backgrounds. No one could be a batterer who is educated, feminist, religious, friendly, and likable, involved with social issues, working in the domestic violence movement, etc.
- Myth 8: Lesbian and Gay domestic violence is sexual behavior, a version of S & M. The victim actually likes it.
- Myth 9: The law does not and will not protect victims of same sex domestic violence.
- Myth 10: Victims exaggerate the violence that happens to them. If it were really bad, they would just leave.
- Myth 11: Victims often provoke the violence done to them. They're asking for it.
Reality: Men and women can be victims and batterers. Domestic violence is fundamentally a power issue. Even when two people are of the same gender, power differences exist and can be abused. This can happen in roommate scenarios where both are gay or straight.
Reality: There is no reason to assume that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are less violent than heterosexual men and women. Although research on same sex relationships is hard to do, the research that has been done indicates same-sex violence is about as common as in straight relationships. Domestic violence presents one of the most significant health risks to the GLBT communities today.
Reality:There are power differences in same gender relationships too. This myth ignores the fact that domestic violence depends on the person with more power to take advantage of his or her power in abusive ways. 'Just a lover's quarrel' trivializes and excuses violence that is real and dangerous.
Reality: There is nothing normal and appropriate about domestic violence. Neither is it masculine. The vast majority of men and women in society are NOT violent. The majority of same-sex relationships ARE free of abuse.
'Boys being boys' may have been harmless (or was it?) on the playground at age six, but when you are an adult with injuries (physical and emotional) inflicted by your significant other, it is neither normal nor appropriate.
Reality: A person who is small, but prone to violence, and very angry can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger, and non-violent. Size, weight, 'masculinity', 'femininity' or any other physical attribute or role is not a good indicator of whether a person will be a victim or a batterer.
Reality: Alcohol, drugs, work problems, jealousy, trauma histories, and stresses resulting form racism or homophobia may all combine with battering, but they do NOT explain NOR excuse the battering. Similarly, a person who has been a victim of child abuse, hate crime, or other trauma in their lives is not relieved of responsibility for his or her abusive conduct.
Reality: Domestic violence is an equal opportunity phenomenon. Batterers come form all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all socio economic classes, all educational levels, all occupations and all political stripes. This myth is helpful to those who would like to deny or distance themselves from domestic abuse in our communities but no group is exempt.
Reality: The myth persists in part because many people still define GLBT people through sexual behavior. Confusing S&M with battering keeps us from facing the reality that domestic violence occurs in all kinds of relationships, and is not the victim's fault. S&M is consensual. Domestic Violence takes place without any mutual trust or agreement, and is not consensual or pleasurable for the victim. A batterer's violent and coercive behaviors don't just affect the sexual relationship, but pervade other aspects of the relationship as well. Another point: A batterer may actually coerce consent to violent or dominating sexual behavior, or violate agreed upon boundaries of S&M. When this happens, it is ABUSE, not S&M.
Reality: In many U.S. states, sexuality is not a requirement for protection under abuse prevention laws. In some cases today, the application of these laws goes smoothly and fairly for victims of same-sex domestic violence. However, there is intolerance among some personnel in the criminal justice system. Some police officers still fail to determine the nature of the relationship between same-sex parties to an assault, and therefore don't even consider applying abuse prevention laws. Others remain hostile or unwilling to recognize the rights of GLBT people. One may also still encounter court personnel or judges who are uncomfortable, unhelpful, or unfair in their treatment of same-sex cases. Because of this reality individual victims must make personal decisions about how and when they will make use of police and court services in developing an over all safety plan.
Reality: Same-sex couples are as intertwined and involved in each other's lives as heterosexual couples. There is no evidence that the absence of children makes leaving a violent partner easier. Besides, same-sex couples can have children as well. Invisibility and relatively limited supports available to victims of same-sex domestic violence may compound barriers to leaving. Many GLBT people lack support from their families and communities, and may not be able to rely on them for help. Batterers may also threaten the victims with 'outing them' if they attempt to leave an abusive relationship. They may also convince the victim that potential helpers will be homophobic and unhelpful.
Reality: This perpetuates the idea that victims are responsible for the violence done to them, that somehow victims cause batterers to be violent. No matter what issues arise in a relationship, feeling frustrated, jealous, hurt, irritated, angry, or afraid of losing a lover is no excuse for resorting to violence. This is not an appropriate way to deal with those feelings. Whatever the feeling is that precedes abusive behavior, there is always an alternative, non-violent way of responding. Abuse is the sole responsibility of the violent person. Batterers choose violence; victims do not 'provoke' it. Of course this myth is common for the batterer. Victims often times accept the myth and it may be a strong force the keeps victims in abusive relationships.
Types of abuse:
- Externalized: 'outing' your partner
- Internalized: 'you deserve it because you are queer'
Coercion and Threats
- Making/carrying out threats to hurt partner emotionally/physically
- Threaten to 'out' partner at work, to family, church
- Threatening suicide
- Threatening to disclose partner's HIV status
- Putting partner down
- Calling partner names, homophobic name-calling
- Making partner think they're crazy
- Making partner feel bad about past heterosexual experiences
- Defining 'real' gay/lesbian identity
- Making HIV+ partner feel like damaged goods
- Controlling what partner does, who he/she sees and talks to, where he/she goes.
- Controlling what partner does (sees, talks to, goes). because either partner isn't 'out'.
- Using the closeness of the gay community to stigmatize.
- Using lack of community resources
Minimizing, Denying, Blaming
- 'Men just fight', 'women aren't abusive'
- Blame abuse on the stress of living in a homophobic society
- Putting partner in fear by: using looks, actions, gestures, and loud voice
- Smashing things, destroying property
- Controlling finances-no marital rights
- Using partner's identity to get credit or spend partner's money
- Treating partner as a sex object
- Withholding sex
- Forced sex, or physical violence during sex (NOT S/M)
- Threatening exposure to HIV
- Making partner feel guilty about having children
- 'Outing' to children
- Threaten custody issues
Seek help if you are someone, or if someone you know is being abused
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