When people hear the term 'domestic violence,' they tend to think of men whacking and torturing their wives or girlfriends. However, this brutal phenomenon is not limited to the heterosexual population. It is estimated that domestic violence occurs in one out of every three GLBT relationships, which is the same rate as in straight ones.
As with heterosexual couples, GLBT domestic violence happens when one person uses abusive behavior to obtain and maintain control over another. This behavior is multidimensional; it can be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual. Like a disease, this behavioral pattern transcends age, religion, ability, financial status ... and sexual orientation.
Types of Abuse
— Calling you names
— Making you feel bad about yourself
— Humiliating you in front of friends and family
— Using jealousy, insecurity, stress, and depression to justify actions
— Controlling what you do, who you see
— Anything that is physically harmful (e.g., slapping, hitting, and shoving)
— Using your disability against you
— Preventing you from leaving
— Destroying property or hurting pets
— Preventing you from getting or keeping a job
— Taking your money
— Not allowing or acknowledging your contributions to assets
— Threatening to 'out' you at work
— Not letting you have your own bank account or credit card
— Teasing you about your body parts
— Coercing prostitution and sex with others
— Going beyond agreed-upon limits during sex
— Threatening to hurt you/leave you/commit suicide
— Using racial/ethnic slurs against you
Myths About GLBT Domestic Violence
These are just a few of the myths surrounding GLBT domestic violence. Believing any of these items may have prevented people from reporting instances of abuse:
Men are never victims of domestic violence.
It really isn't violence when a same-sex couple fights.
The batterer is always butch, bigger, and stronger. The survivor is always feminine, smaller, and weaker.
People who are abusive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not responsible for their actions.
The law does not and will not protect survivors of GLBT domestic violence.
GLBT domestic violence is a version of sadomasochism.
Survivors often provoke the violence done to them. They are getting what they deserve.
What to Do
If you recognize yourself as an abuser, please stop whatever you are doing to your significant other. Find therapeutic support in dealing with anger and frustration.
If you are being abused, you need to extricate yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Prepare a safety plan in case the abuse continues. Contact organizations that provide help in domestic violence. (A few are listed at the end of this section.) Widen your support network; talk to friends, family members, and even your physician.
If you know someone who's being abused, connect that person with resources that may help. You may consider offering that person haven in your home, but also realize that doing so will make you the third part of a potentially dangerous triangle.
Where to Turn
Horizons Community Services Anti-Violence Project/Shelter Chicago, 961 W. Montana, Chicago, Ill., 60614, (773) 472-6469 x411, www.lgbtshelterchicago.org . This service is probably the best-known of its kind in the city.
Howard Brown Health Center's Domestic Violence Program: 4025 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, Ill., 60613, (773) 388-8882. The program offers counseling, case management, and support services for survivors of domestic violence.
A Friend's Place: P.O. Box 5185, Evanston, Ill., 60204, (773) 274-5232 or (800) 603-HELP. This resource is a free walk-in counseling center primarily for women and children. Friends also provides a 24-hour crisis referral hotline, court advocacy, and community education.
Apna Ghar: 4753 N. Broadway, Suite 502, Chicago, IL 60640, (773) 334-0173, www.apnaghar.org . This shelter is primarily for Asian women.
Women's Crisis Center of Metro East: P.O. Box 831, Belleville, Ill., (618) 235-0892.
Domestic Violence Division of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office: 1340 S. Michigan Ave., Room 400, Chicago, Ill., 60605, (312) 341-2866, or visit www.statesattorney.org/aweb/dvdivisn.htm.
Sources: Howard Brown Health Center; Student Development Centre web site; Cook County State's Attorney Web site.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore, 1215 Church Street, Evanston, (847) 864-8445, hosts its 9th YWCA Week Without Violence' campaign Oct. 19-25. The campaign is designed to heighten awareness of the destructive role of violence and uncivil behavior in our lives and help create a non-violent world. It will focus attention on practical, sustainable non-violent alternatives. Launched as a grassroots campaign in 1995, the movement has spread to all 50 states and more than 40 countries.
This year the week is co-sponsored by Connections for the Homeless, Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Evanston Community Defender, Evanston Community Media Center, Evanston Police Department, Evanston Township High School, Mental Health Association of the North Shore, Metropolitan Family Services, Music Institute of Chicago, Open Studio Project, PEER Services, and Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc. (Y.O.U.)