Monday, February 3, 2014

Tough Love: Domestic Violence In The LGBT Community

So you hear about domestic abuse and usually there is one picture that comes to mind. You know the one.  A working class man, usually with a pot belly, is standing over a woman cowering on the floor somewhere in between the refrigerator and the sink. He straddles her with his fist clinched, poised to strike. She’s covering up a bloody mouth or holding a blacking eye with one hand while whimpering and begging her husband or boyfriend to stop plummeting her. Usually this said raging significant other is uttering insults and obscenities while wearing a sleeveless tee that is ironically his role’s name sake. On rare occasions, this picture is replaced with an enraged woman chasing a man with a baseball bat or a frying pan ready to do bodily harm. There is still yet another image that people rarely consider and the media almost never report is that of a man being battered by another man or a woman being beaten by another woman.

Ok, I get it. In this society men are supposed to be men, meaning that men are expected to be strong and dominate and all around ass kickers. So if the thought of two men being in a loving relationship may be hard for the mainstream public to fathom, than a man being abused by another man is even harder. The fact is an estimated 25-33% of LGBT people are or have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.

According to the American Bar Association, there are approximately 835,000 men that suffer from abuse from their partners every year. In comparison, even though more heterosexual women by numbers experience domestic violence, gay men experience domestic violence at levels just as high as they do.

So what causes a man to fall into a relationship where he is abused? Is it because he's soft or weak minded or is he just a coward and a "punk"? Because of gender roles, it may generally be easy to reason why women may fall into abusive relationships. According to Rob Stephenson in his article Forgotten Victims: Domestic Violence Among Gay Men, he offers that heterosexual relationships follows a patriarchy where the man is more dominate because economic  and social advancement is structured to favor men over women, thus giving them positions of control. He reasons the same structures play a role in domestic violence in gay relationships. Instead of gender giving a perceived advantage of one partner over another, other economic differences such as education and resources may serve to give one partner an advantage over the other, thus giving more control in the relationship.

Of course everything does not necessarily boil down to just money. Domestic abusers in gay relationships exhibit other abusive behavior including intimidation, fear, and guilt. Many times if one partner is not out or is "DL", they may be threatened with being outed to family, friends, coworkers, and business associates. Eroding a partner's self-esteem by belittlement, hurling insults, public humiliation, withholding medications, even the threat of identity theft and rape are often tactics used to keep one in line by an abusive partner. Many men often endure threats of deadly harm against themselves and loved ones from abusive partners to maintain control.

So how does one recognize that prince charming may morph into Satan incarnate? There are several signs that may signify that you are headed down a road of an abusive relationship. One sign is that your partner is constantly belittling you. I don't mean the occasional ribbing in playful fun. I'm talking about the outright embarrassing and often times humiliating insults that are meant to make you feel worthless.

Another sign is your partner being controlling and overbearing. It may be kind of cute at first to have a dude that wants you to call him "Daddy" and insist on wanting to know where you are going. However, placing hundreds of phone calls and leaving just as many voicemails when you fail to check in may be a signal that someone is three bricks short of a load. Often times people confuse obsession for love and there is a big difference. Sometimes there is a very thin line between a cupid and a bunny boiler.

Of course if your partner is laying hands on you, and not in a pleasurable way, then you know indeed you are in an abusive relationship. An occasional slap to the face or a punch in the eye is not ok and is not excusable by stress or any other pressures in your partner's life. A slap in the face one day may surely turn into your body being hurled out of a glass door or window the next.

It makes one feel special when someone wants you all to themselves. However, when it turns into you never being allowed to see your family or friends, you may be in a hostage situation. Abusers will often times seek to isolate you from family, friends, and your support networks to keep you firmly under their control. Whenever you do go out, they insist on being right there by your side every step of the way. This is the abuser's way of keeping you dependent on them and also can make you feel worse emotionally to keep you stagnant and unwilling to change the situation.

If your partner is finding everything wrong with what you do and is constantly picking up a violin and playing the victim, especially when you try to asset yourself, then Houston you have a problem. A common tactic abusers use is the blame game. They will blame you for their situation, or for cursing you out, or for the rain falling on the wrong day of the week. Putting up with blame for their ill behavior may include blaming you for their fist crashing into your face or their foot slamming into your ribcage later.

What are the resources for men who find themselves in abusive relationships?  Most shelters for domestic violence victims are for women only. There is often times a lack of effective screening in gay domestic violence situations. Sometimes victims are mistaken for the aggressor and arrested. Many LGBT survivors are denied orders for protection.  Many LGBT people, especially closeted individuals, do not feel comfortable in mainstream domestic violence support groups. Lack of a close social circle where they can seek help is also a stumbling block for many individuals including those who are not "out."

Domestic abuse is a major problem facing the LGBT community. It is important that victims know they have a support group of friends, family, and community options to rely on when faced with the prospect of fleeing an abusive relationship. If there isn't a support group readily available in your area, try seeking the help of organizations that provide other services for the LGBT community. They may know of a network of individuals or organizations you can call upon. The important thing is to do something. Choose yourself and choose a quality of life that is far removed from the ravages of domestic abuse.    

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or domestic violence you can find resources and help at the
 National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
A project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Tel: 800-537-2238 ■ TTY: 800-553-2508 ■ Fax: 717-545-9456
6400 Flank Drive, Suite 1300
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17112

Male Media Mind