Editors' Note: Guest blogger David Phillips is a poly Leather shaman, kink evangelist, and Queermen's health advocate living in Arlington, VA. A survivor of relationship abuse, David co-founded the Rainbow Response Coalition, addressing intimate partner violence among LGBTQ people in Metro DC.
While activists and local health advocates wring their hands over the latest HIV prevalence data for the District of Columbia, another generations-old menace continues to plague the LGBTQ communities with scarce recognition, except when it explodes with outrageous demonstrations among us.
A report released last month by the Rainbow Response Coalition indicated that 28% of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning people in the DC Metro area surveyed had been abused physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially by an intimate partner--a hook-up, an FWB, a date, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a longtime spouse whose caring masked a pattern of violence intended to control or intimidate the abused. The prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) found in our local LGBTQ population was in line with previous research in other cities.
Still, like HIV/AIDS, our communities fail to discuss this ever-present problem outside of sensational news, like publicly reported cases of assault and murder.
As with HIV/AIDS, our greatest foes in stemming the prevalence of IPV are denial, untruth, and ignorance, while our greatest weapons are ownership, understanding, and education. IPV is not always as blatant as a physical attack. IPV also includes
- Demanding the use of recreational drugs by an unwilling partner;
- Forcing or coercing any sex act, unprotected sex, or sex with other people against your will;
- Threats of outing your sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, or immigration status; and
- Limiting contact with people outside of your relationship and/or destroying or hiding property in an attempt to limit your independence.
BDSM without consent is IPV. Trust me.
Sadly, until recently there has been no organized attempt to identify and respond to intimate partner violence among LGBTQ people in the DC area, and few resources exist to address them in a comprehensive and culturally competent manner. We demand marriage equality, but there is scarce support for when our relationships go horrifically wrong.
A look through the published blotter of the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department often shows over half of their calls for service involving intimate partner violence. Hate crimes grab headlines, but we're apparently doing quite well at beating up on our own!
Think about what you've just been told about intimate partner violence, and be honest with yourself and answer these questions:
- Has an intimate partner done any of these things to you or someone you know?
- If it happened to you, did you tell anyone about it?
- Have you ever done any of these things to an intimate partner?
- If so, have you discussed this behavior with a counselor or sought forgiveness from the one you abused?
If you have survived IPV, whether from 20 years or 30 minutes ago, know that there is hope and healing. From September 1983 to October 1984 I was demeaned, prostituted, and raped by a male lover during my undergraduate career.
After the night I left him, I did not speak of the abuse for over three years, then for almost fifteen years after that. I would claim the relationship and leave out how hurtful it was. In December 2006 I went public with my history with intimate partner violence, and in the summer of 2007 I partnered with several like-minded gay men and lesbians to form the Rainbow Response Coalition to cultivate LGBTQ-accessible resources and to inform LGBTQ people about IPV.
Being so open may not be your thing, but there should never be shame in being a survivor. You can take a first step away from IPV by downloading a resource brochure from the Rainbow Response website and begin connecting with organizations and hotlines to help you plan for safety in your daily life.
If you have inflicted violence on a partner, know also that your life can be free of violence, too. First, you need to claim your role in wounding the body, mind, and spirit of someone you have cared about.
Next, you need to tell what exactly you have done to someone who can help you change, then follow through on ridding your relationships of abuse. Too often, partners who batter do not seek help until instructed to do so by a court. Services for men who batter women are few, and LGBTQ-specific programs are non-existent in our area; however, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE(7223), TTY 800-787-3224) can identify local support for the change you choose for your life.
If you're ready to help create community-wide change to end intimate partner violence among your LGBTQ friends and neighbors, drop an email to volunteer@RainbowResponse.org to learn about getting involved with the Coalition and our member service agencies.