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Discovering the Other Closet:

A Discussion of Homosexual Domestic Violence and How Language Fuels the Fire

Andrea McInnes

on 13 May 2010

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Transcript of Discovering the Other Closet:

we would realize that it is just as big an issue as domestic violence in heterosexual relationships Do you ever think about domestic violence
for members of the LGbt community? if we took the chance to listen... The prevalence of domestic violence among Gay and Lesbian couples is approximately 25 - 33%. It is as common as it is in heterosexual relationships. (Barnes, It's Just a Quarrel', American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 25.)
Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 Lesbian women and as many as 500,000 Gay men are battered. (Murphy, Queer Justice: Equal Protection for Victims of Same-Sex Domestic Violence, 30 Val. U. L. Rev. 335 (1995).) The Facts Silencing Effects Looking back I can see that it was a slow process that I wasn’t even aware of, it started with a dig about something I was wearing or something I had said. Then it progressed to belittling me in front of his friends and work colleagues. Eventually when I didn’t have any confidence the beatings started along with the threats and being told that it was my fault for looking at people on the bus or in a pub. I got to the stage where I couldn’t go out at night alone or use the internet. My mobile phone and email were checked everyday. As he is in IT he made me believe he could find out where I was and if I deleted things

Steve, DV survivor Language and Abuse

LGBT Domestic Abuse is a bit of an ‘elephant-in-the-room’ type situation: we all know it’s there, we probably all know someone who has experienced it, but too many of us would still rather tip-toe round it than face the reality. Maybe it’s the shame factor – we’re all so busy trying to convince the rest of society that gay people are fine, upstanding citizens that we can’t accept we have the same flaws as everyone else. Yet our community would actually be so much stronger if it did. Iona Fiesta, OUTSKIRTS editor: A new report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs indicates that of 3,327 domestic violence cases self-reported among Gays in 12 U.S. cities last year, about half involved Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women Female LGBT Abuse Melvin Hartley:

Denial within our community is doubly damaging. We need to open our eyes to what’s going on. Research shows that domestic violence in same sex relationships is just as high as it is in heterosexual ones. Awareness and acknowledgement is low and there is a lack of services for victims to access.
Of the 3,327 cases reported, 1,746 (52 percent) were among men and 1,581 (48 percent) occurred among women. The report indicated that 105 persons in the report identified as transgender women and four identified as transgender men for a woman, living with a man in marriage is close to 10 times less dangerous than having an on-going sexual relationship with a woman. The Main Issues
they are fearful of getting help and admitting they have been abused, because there are very few resources for victims of homosexual domestic violence While same-sex battering mirrors heterosexual battering both in type and prevalence, its victims receive fewer protections. (Barnes, It's Just a Quarrel', American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 24.) Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same-sex victims; 21 states have sodomy laws that may require same-sex victims to confess to a crime in order to prove they are in a domestic relationship. (Barnes, It's Just a Quarrel', American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 24.) Same-sex batterers use forms of abuse similar to those of heterosexual batterers. They have an additional weapon in the threat of "outing" their partner to family, friends, employers or community. (Lundy, Abuse That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Assisting Victims of Lesbian and Gay Domestic Violence in Massachusetts, 28 New Eng. L. Rev. 273 (Winter 1993). By 1994, there were over 1,500 shelters and safe houses for battered women. Many of these shelters routinely deny their services to victims of same-sex battering. (Murphy, Queer Justice: Equal Protection for Victims of Same-Sex Domestic Violence, 30 Val. U. L. Rev. 335 (1995). -for many gays in society today coming out is a very intense and important moment. The Other Closet: But, because of the homophobic quality to society today, it is much more difficult for victims of homosexual domestic violence to confront and admit to their abuse. The Causes of Homosexual Abuse And How They Differ from Causes in Heterosexual Relationships Unlike homosexual relationships, there are no defined roles in homosexual relationships Pauline, LGBT DV survivor, London:

One turning point for me was separating my love for the original woman I’d met with the fact that I couldn’t change her, and that the negative side and behaviour she was directing towards me was not my fault and would not end. Her behaviour would carry on and transfer to something else and get worse the whole time I carried on accepting it. Domestic violence is a downward spiral. Once it’s started it won’t stop or get better unless positive action is taken. Kim, helpline:

One main problem with raising awareness of LGBT abuse is the denial. The term “domestic violence” is perceived as something akin to alcoholism, (“I don’t sit on a park bench drinking”) and people do not see that they are perpetrating or are a victim of DV because they have a set idea about what it is. Greg, helpline: There is a misconception that LGBT people are always going to dance parties, spending their ‘pink pound’ and enjoying themselves. The reality for many LGBT people is that our lives can be scarred by poverty, discrimination, homophobia and domestic violence. We need to make these issues public and demand services which will combat these inequalities. Jess Taylor, Safe as Houses, “Count Me In Too”:

Recent research has highlighted both the prevalence of domestic abuse within LGBT communities, and huge gaps in service provision. It is absolutely crucial that we, as professionals and people within communities, work to put LGBT DV on the national and local agenda in order to address some of these gaps – gaps which exist both in a cultural understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse within LGBT communities and within direct service provision itself. Domestic abuse affects the lives of both the people directly involved and those who surround them; in short this is everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility and cannot afford to be ignored, either as individuals or as a society. In her book “When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Female Innocence” author Patricia Pearson reveals that violence in women’s prisons is more than twice as common as it is in men’s prisons So…Although females are known to be the gentler and more loving sex, research shows that they can be, in fact, more dangerous and violent than men.

I hypothesize that female violence has a lot to do with bad self-esteem, jealously, gossip, speaking about another behind one’s back, and the use of language that is degrading to women, among other things.

Therefore, it makes sense that issues of domestic violence among lesbians is a significant and growing issue that should be addressed (leading to the fact that homosexual domestic violence is equal to that of heterosexual domestic violence)

While lesbians are not often as shunned as gay men when attempting to enter shelters, there are those who pass themselves as straight in order to receive help.

Why should this be necessary?

Here again is the issue of fear of coming out and the existence of homophobia in our society… Conclusion language and homosexual domestic violence and abuse go hand in hand negative and degrading language is used by the superior partner to fear the inferior partner into silence
similar language is used by society causing the victims of homosexual violence to stay silent and not admit thier problems to friends/family whether male or female, victims of homosexual abuse suffer from an equal amount of battering, but have less resources than victims of heterosexual abuse we need to break the silence by asking victims to share thier stories and attempting to break down the homophobic society we live in Discovering the Other Closet:
A Discussion of Homosexual Domestic Violence and How Language Fuels the Fire by: Andrea McInnes they may also fear that if they get help that their abuser will find out and get angry or will "out" them before they have the chance to do it themselves victims of homosexual abuse are hesitant to admit they are being abused, because they fear "coming out" to family members/authorities they are afraid that by admitting to abuse they will embarrass/shame the LGBT community Interview:

Wednesday 24th July 2008 Following on from the ground breaking survey by Stonewall, featuring the under reported issue of lesbian and bisexual domestic violence Rita Hirani, consultant for Broken Rainbow, and Dr Catherine Donovan featured on BBC Women’s Hour, talking about the issues involved around lesbian and bisexual domestic violence.

Also featured on the show was Karen, a woman who experienced domestic violence from her same-sex partner.

About the start of the abuse:

Karen: “It starts slowly…”

About the differing types of abuse suffered at the hands of perpetrators:

Rita Hirani: “Mental and psychological form of control, which is the earliest form of abuse…”

On the survey from Catherine Donovan, Marianne Hester, Jonathan Holmes & Melanie McCarry, Nov 2006 “Comparing Domestic Abuse in Same Sex and Heterosexual Relationships”

Dr Catherine Donovan: “Often women didn’t identify what had happened to them at the time as domestic violence.”

Rita Hirani: “We are only just beginning to recognize that same sex couples can be abusive to each other.” Quotes: 80 of these female victims have never reported incidents to the police The charity Stonewall’s report “Prescription for Health” found that one in four lesbian women have experienced domestic violence, suggesting that the level of abuse in lesbian relationships is the same as in the general population

-It is often difficult for LGBT members to come out due to the homophobic quality of our society -Coming out as an abused gay is an even more draining, scary, and intense process that is only made more difficult by the lack of resources and the way society uses homophobic language - Coming out as a victim of homosexual violence is now considered by some as “coming out of the other closet” -Negative and degrading language such as fag, queer, rug-muncher, etc. are all words that cause gays to fear coming out and therefore fear admitting to domestic violence/abuse There are very few role models for gays There are no set rules that say which partner has the power, which partner provides for the family, which partner takes care of the home, etc. Men ad women in homosexual relationships often suffer isolation from society and feel unaccepted and shunned Homosexuals in society are subject to offensive and degrading language that can either lead to abuse due to shame or can worsen the emotional state of an abused victim Feeling powerless, alone, and scared of coming out can lead to abuse
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