By Sara Smith, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
As a society, we are growing in awareness concerning the very real issue of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, far too many people lack an understanding regarding the scope of how many people are affected by this horrible crime.
When IPV is discussed, the typical image of a male perpetrator and female victim comes to mind. This is understandable, given that this is the most common dynamic that service providers see and that is portrayed in the media. However, the issue of IPV is bigger than that, with rates affecting members of the LGBTQ population at strikingly similar rates to heterosexual couples. For example, similar to the 1 in 4 heterosexual women who report having experienced IPV at some point in their lives, current statistics suggest that 1 in 4 partners in same-sex relationships report similar experiences (Wilson, 2014).
Nonetheless, many myths abound regarding IPV in same-sex relationships. Consider the following myths, highlighted by the Tahoe Safe Alliance (2014) and the website Domesticviolence.org (2009):
Another truth: Although victims in same-sex relationships face a plethora of similar dynamics in their intimate relationships as heterosexual couples, unique challenges often exist. All abusive relationships are characterized by power and control dynamics, and abusive same-sex relationships follow this pattern, too. With that being said, there are some additional unique issues that may occur in these relationships.
According to Wilson (2014), perpetrators in same-sex relationships may use the threat of “outing” their partner to employers, family, and peers, if the victim should leave, which could become one of the reasons a victim might stay in an unhealthy relationship. Similarly, victims in abusive same-sex relationships may have to “out” themselves when they are seeking help from law enforcement or social service agencies.
Another unique challenge for people in same-sex relationships may stem from feelings of solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Victims may fear that coming forward with a violent or unhealthy relationship could perpetuate negative stereotypes of the community.
Parenting issues may also present unique barriers to leaving an abusive same-sex relationship. In some states, same-sex partners may not be able to adopt each other’s children (Wilson, 2014). Adoption laws often do not include same-sex relationships; therefore, the common threat of losing the children means something slightly different in the LGBTQ relationship.
My hope is that society will become fully equipped to respond to IPV with enough resources to meet the needs of people in all types of relationships. However, too often, there are not enough resources at the community and state level to support victims of same-sex IPV. Many people facing same-sex IPV are left to wonder: Where can I turn for help?
There is hope out there! There is growing recognition of the need for resources for same-sex couples and members of the LGBTQ community. Increasingly, agencies are realizing the lack of resources for this particular population and are responding by evolving their organizations to accommodate greater diversity than ever before. When you or a loved one needs support, and are having trouble finding resources, here are a few great references you can use:
Each of these resources has staff who are trained to handle crisis situations, are friendly and concerned about the safety of the caller, and will work with you for as long as it takes to get you the resources and support your specific situation calls for. They are there waiting to help you—all it takes is a phone call to get started!
Sara Smith is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health and Couple and Family Counseling. She hopes to work with couples and continue advocating for and working with the LGBTQ community as she explores her profession.