Domestic violence in the gay community

7 Dec

Domestic violence in any manner, gay or straight, is abominable. In the gay community domestic violence has long been a dirty little secret that was swept under the rug and kept from the light of the day. Lately as homosexuality is becoming better understood and more accepted in society the truth about gay domestic violence has been coming out of the closet and the facts concerning it often shock and shatter many long held myths accepted as truth.

Domestic violence as defined is not just physical abuse, but mental/emotional. financial, or any combination of these components. It further is not limited to persons physically residing together but rather people that are or have dated or been intimate with each other which has led to the use of the term “Intimate partner violence” to more accurately describe the phenomena. Ultimately what must be remembered is that domestic violence is about power and control.

For decades people have long accepted one of two myths at varying extremes, one being there is no such thing as gay domestic violence or that is running rampant in all gay relationships. As usual extremist views either way are wrong. The fact is that gay domestic violence does exist but in no statistically meaningful margin greater or lesser than the straight community. Even among gays for many years the issue of domestic violence was a taboo issue. Many times a person whom appeared physically battered was often told to keep their mouth shut so as not to give the wrong image of the gay community. At times people were told that it wasn’t really violence or rape in some case but rough foreplay or sex. Others remain silent because quite simply men are generally not supposed to be the victims of domestic abuse. While a wholly untrue belief, many generations were raised believing that. Others fear the stigma attached to being a victim or simply hope by not talking about it the problem will go away. The universal thread has always been to keep it quiet.

It wasn’t until the last several years that we have seen shelters for battered men appearing in larger cities, primarily those with a large gay population. For many victims of domestic violence this has been life saving as it provided the opportunity to escape an abusive relationship rather than suffer through it because they simply had nowhere to turn. In the past and regretfully still in the present in some cases the police turned a blind eye to gay domestic violence either believing it was just a simple assault, or in many cases it was just boys being boys and nothing to worry about. With such attitudes it is easy to see why so many victims were reluctant to press charges.

In todays society it is believed gay domestic violence is under-reported just as it is in the heterosexual community. The reasons are varied and obvious. In some cases victims truly love their abuser and believe the behavior is isolated, will end, or in truly sad cases is their own fault. Others feel they won’t be believed if they make a report or fear not being able to make it on their own if they flee the relationship. Still there is another reason which is some victims are in the closet and will not report the violence for fear of being outed.

To help end this cycle of pain some states and many communities are now initiating programs to benefit the victims and perpetrators of gay domestic violence the same as are available in the straight community. Currently California is perhaps the most progressive and has begun an initiative, which is still in the legislative stages, that would require gay and lesbian partners registering as domestic partners to pay a fee of twenty three dollars which would specifically help fund programs aimed at gay domestic violence. Through different avenues cities like New York, Chicago, and Seattle have begun training police officers how to deal with issues surrounding same sex domestic violence. In areas where government agencies aren’t getting involved many private foundations and grassroots level support groups are springing up to address this unique need. While great headway is being made the is still a long way to go.

In the final analysis violence is violence, but domestic violence is particularly heinous. To abuse a person you are supposed to love is for me unfathomable, yet it occurs everyday in not just the U.S. but around the world. It is one of those things that will unfortunately never end, but by talking about it and knowing and sharing the facts about it, we can help remove the stigma attached to gay domestic violence and begin the process of healing for the victims and find help for the abusers.

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