Each year during the month of June, Gay Pride Month is celebrated across the country. It is a time to recognize the accomplishments, challenges, and future goals of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning (LGBTQ) community. Cities from coast to coast demonstrate their support, hosting festivals and parades where thousands of people gather. Just a few days ago, Philadelphia hosted its own parade, which was attended by more than 10,000 people!
During this month, headlines have not only increased awareness about the progress that this community is making, but also about recent cases of domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships. While many people may think that abuse primarily only happens in heterosexual relationships, statistics prove this assumption wrong. With this being said, organizations such as A Woman’s Place (AWP) are aware of this issue and continue to work with victims and the local community to end domestic violence for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, gender, age, etc.
A recent article by Eesha Pandit, “The dangerous myths about domestic violence that are putting LGBTQ people at risk”, examines the relationship of two female professional basketball players, Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson. The couple caught the media’s attention when they were both arrested for assault and disorderly conduct days before their wedding in April 2015. Their tumultuous partnership has exposed the adversity that LGBTQ people face when confronting domestic violence and the challenging dynamics within said relationships.
The 2014 National Violence Against Women survey revealed shocking statistics about abuse in LGBTQ relationships. According to this study, 21.5% of men and 35.4% of women experienced physical violence by their same-sex partners in their lifetime. In comparison, 7.1% of heterosexual men and 20.4% of heterosexual women reported physical abuse by their partners. Pandit responds, remarking that “These figures break down the dangerous myths that only straight women are victims of intimate partner violence, that men cannot be victims of intimate partner violence, and that women can’t also be perpetrators of violence.” Domestic abuse is an issue that can affect anyone at any time, and must never be solely associated with a specific identity. With this being said, abuse within LGBTQ relationships can have different dynamics that are important to understand and acknowledge.
Although statistics show that LGBTQ people have a higher chance of being in an abusive relationship, members of this community are less likely to seek support and advocacy for themselves. This can be for a plethora of reasons, the main one being concern for personal safety. Sadly, for victims who have not come out, exposing one’s identity can result in the loss of family support, threats, and even police brutality. Thus, in many cases, victims are worried about their safety from their abuser in addition to the general public’s opinion and reaction to finding out about their sexual orientation.
Other potential obstacles for reporting abuse can range from a partner daring to “out” their significant other, threatening that no one will help because of their orientation. Abusers may also convince their partners that this is what a “normal” LGBTQ relationship is like and there is nothing uncommon or irrational about their erratic behavior. Additionally, this community is constantly working to broaden its acceptance into mainstream society and reporting abuse may in certain circumstances, cause a victim to be ostracized.
It is clear that there is an overwhelming amount of potential hurdles in abusive relationships and The Power and Control Wheel for members of the LGBTQ community reveals the many ways in which that abuse appears. The article, “Caitlyn Jenner, Transphobia, and Domestic Violence” points out that “For those who are marginalized, the absence of acceptance and the presence of sometimes blatant hostility leaves them vulnerable to those who would use violence as a form of control.” While Caitlyn Jenner has not reported experiencing domestic abuse, she is included in this article as an advocate for the transgender community. AWP has and continues to work with people who identify as LGBTQ.
The safety and well-being of all clients, regardless of their ranging identities, is a top priority for AWP. Respect is a focal point of AWP’s mission, which pledges to be “considerate and honors the worth and dignity of all beings and resources.” No victim will ever be denied help, resources or support because AWP truly embraces individuality, treating clients as unique and worthy human beings. As June winds down and Gay Pride Month comes to a close, AWP continues to support the LGBTQ community, celebrating their strength, resilience, and courage to live unapologetically as who they are.
For more information about the rights of LGBTQ victims of domestic abuse, The National LGBT Bar Association provides excellent resources.
For immediate assistance, call 212-714-1141, a 24 hour hotline run by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Student, James Madison University and AWP 2015 Summer Intern