Transgender, Gender Non Conforming, Gender Queer, Bisexual, Pansexual, Lesbian and Gay are all subject to this form of violence. Please remember, IPV is all about control. Look for the signals, make a plan, seek advice and then leave if at all possible.
by Scott Stiffler
Monday Aug 3, 2009
There are few things more affirming than seeing a gay couple walking down the street - hand in hand - demonstrating to the world that two men can thrive in a healthy, loving partnership.
To the casual observer, they’ve overcome the cultural conditioning of shame and judgment which keeps so many LGBTs from publicly acknowledging their relationship. But look further at the area of coverage just beyond the sunglasses or notice the long sleeved shirt worn amidst the blazing sun and you might begin to suspect the couple is anything but happy and free of shame.
Guilt and a sense of being judged as weak or as a failure, makes male-on-male relationship violence a problem whose true scope cannot be accurately represented by statistics. But when EDGE recently spoke with some crisis intervention and mental health professionals, we found the problem of relationship-based abuse in the gay community to be a very real, often unacknowledged, problem.
It’s called IPV
Sharon Staple, Executive Director, the Gay & Lesbian Anti Violence Project, notes that rather than label the phenomenon as domestic violence, "We call it intimate partner violence (IPV)." Staple points out that while there are some factors unique to gay sexuality, the underlying reasons for IPV vary little whether those involved are straight, gay, bi or transgendered. What all such violence has in commons, says Staple, is "the desire of one partner to control the other."
The significant differences are found in "the tools that a batterer might use in a same sex relationship - like threatening to out someone; things that are distinct to sexual orientation or gender identity that can be used to control. In LGBT relationships, it can be more about invoking some sort of shame as a way to make one feel small or powerless or helpless. If you are in the closet or are young and don’t have a lot of resources or people you can talk to about your sexual orientation, that becomes a tool the batterer can use."
That mental hold on the partner, says Staple, makes psychological or emotional aggression "one of the most prevalent forms of violence" in same sex relationships. "Threats are often used to control behavior or denigrate a person’s identity. That makes it a particularly insidious form of violence," since its effect is to exert "control over who you can see, talk to, what you can wear; even what kind of medications you can take."
The most dangerous time?
That last form of emotional battering, Staple points out, has unique consequences for "a victim who is HIV positive. One way the partner can control them is to withhold medication or refuse to allow their partner to go to the doctor - or interfere with their health care generally. We see that frequently in a relationship where the victim is HIV positive."
Staple notes that when a person comes to them, AVP’s "goal is to provide support for whatever it is they think is best and safest" whether that means "leaving the relationship or negotiating a safer relationship. We don’t work from a position that leaving is the only or the best way to end the violence.
In fact, statistics about intimate partner violence consistently show that leaving is one of the most dangerous time in relationship; the time when violence is most likely to occur. We meet the client where they are and help them figure out the most safe and effective way to address the violence in their lives."
Avy Skolnik is the coordinator of Statewide and National Programs for the Gay & Lesbian Anti Violence Project. Although Skolnik emphasizes that "The underlying dynamics of IPV do not change based on the genders of the partners," he does specify some common battering tactics in male relationships which seem unique to gay men: "We’ve seen examples of somebody pimping out their partner, or coercing their partner to have sex with people" as a form of humiliation and control. "There are couples who do that (pimping) consensually, but often times people don’t want to and feel unsafe to say no, because there are consequences that make saying no not an option. Some who say no and are then physically forced."....ORIGINAL ARTICLE