Black & Blue (Is That You?)

     Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, or IPV/A, is no joke.  Known as domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ community, IPV/A is a demoralizing, stigmatizing and potentially life-threatening cycle of behavior. 

     And IPV/A is more prevalent than once was believed: one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships is abusive in some way.  A recently-released study bears this out.  Soon, I’ll discuss the disturbing results of this landmark research.  

     As a journalist, I’ve made Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse my signature issue, and conduct national IPV/A seminars and workshops.  Just recently, I shared my own experience in a column I penned for The Advocate.  Visit:  wyattevans.com/making-a-great-escape-from-an-abusive-relationship/

     Before we go further, let’s examine exactly what Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse is…and means.  According to The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, it is “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.”  

      Each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay/SGL men are battered.  Again, IPV/A is no joke.

     According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, “Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only:  to gain and maintain total control over you.  Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her ‘thumb.’  Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.  The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable.  You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.”

     Stigma is largely responsible for keeping this destructive behavior “swept under the rug,” which leads to it being dramatically underreported. Therefore, figuratively, this keeps us (locked) in the closet.  Stigma is the albatross around your neck, choking the hell outta ya. 

     Now, to the study.  Entitled “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence in 2015,” and released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), it examines the experiences of 1,976 IPV/A survivors in 14 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Vermont).  This new report is the 2016 release edition.  NCAVP “works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected communities.”

     According to the organization, the study “looks at the unique ways that LGBTQ and HIV-affected people experience IPV, as well as the barriers they experience when attempting to access care and support.”   The following is the report overview:

  • People of color (POC) comprised 77% of the reports of LGBTQ and HIV-affected IPV homicides, and 54% of the total number of survivors who reported to NCAVP members in 2015.
  • Transgender women were three times more likely to report experiencing sexual and financial violence.
  • LGBTQ survivors with disabilities were two times more likely to be isolated by their abusive partner and four times more likely to experience financial violence.
  • There was an increase in the percentage of undocumented survivors from 4% in 2014 to 9% in 2015.
  • Forty-four percent of survivors attempting to access emergency shelter were denied and 71% reported being denied because of their gender identity.
  • Out of the total number of survivors who interacted with law enforcement, 25% said that the police were either indifferent or hostile, and31% of LGBTQ survivors who interacted with police said they experienced misarrest.

     These findings demonstrate that it is critical to consider the multiple identities and experiences of LGBTQ victims and survivors because they substantially impact their incidences of IPV/A.  “The bias and discrimination that these communities experience everywhere, from workplaces to shelters, both makes them more vulnerable to IPV and creates unique barriers to accessing services,” the report states.  “For example, we know that LGBTQ and HIV-affected people often experience workplace discrimination, making them less financially secure. Abusive partners often take advantage of financial insecurity to control their partners, as seen in the high number of survivors experiencing financial violence.”

     The new report includes survivor stories that illustrate some of the complicated, nuanced and intersectional ways LGBTQ individuals experience IPV/A.  “’We must start listening to the experiences of LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ undocumented people, LGBTQ people with disabilities, and transgender and gender nonconforming individuals to learn more about what these communities need to feel safe’,” stated Tre’Andre Valentine from The Network/La Red.  Some time ago, I featured this organization (located in Boston, MA) in the Huffington Post Queer Voices. 

     “’We must protect, uplift, and center those within LGBTQ communities who have been traditionally isolated and shamed for their identities and experiences’,” added Valentine.  “’It’s only with their voices at the center that we can truly begin the work of ending intimate partner violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people across the country’.”

     Now, major highlights from the report:

  • LGBTQ People Experience IPV/A in Different Ways. “This year’s report found that transgender women were three times more likely to report experiencing sexual violence and financial violence compared to survivors who were not transgender women within IPV.  Additionally, the report found that LGBTQ survivors with disabilities were two times more likely to be isolated by their abusive partner and four times more likely to experience financial violence when compared to LGBTQ survivors without disabilities.  This year there was an increase in the percentage of undocumented survivors from 4% in 2014 to 9% in 2015.  ’It’s vital that we understand the unique vulnerabilities to IPV and the unique barriers to accessing services for LGBTQ communities, particular LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ people who are undocumented, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and LGBTQ people with disabilities’, said Julia Berberan from SafeSpace at Pride Center Vermont. ‘We need to make sure we’re reaching all survivors and supporting their specific needs in a survivor-centered way’.”
  • LGBTQ survivors often experience discrimination when trying to access IPV services. “NCAVP’s 2015 report found that about 27% of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors attempted to access emergency shelters.  Of those survivors who attempted to access emergency shelter, 44% were denied, with 71% reporting being denied for reasons relating to gender identity, highlighting the negative consequences of sex-segregated emergency shelter options for LGBTQ survivors. ‘Shelter access issues most often impact transgender survivors—particularly transgender women—and cisgender men, who are often denied shelter at historically sex-segregated shelters that only serve cisgender women’, said Lynne Sprague from Survivors Organizing for Liberation in Colorado.  ‘Survivor-centered and identity-affirming housing options must be made available to all survivors’.”
  • LGBTQ IPV survivors experience violence and criminalization from the police. “Similar to previous NCAVP reports on IPV, LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors reported experiencing misarrest, verbal harassment, and other hostile behaviors when interacting with law enforcement.  Out of the total number of survivors who interacted with law enforcement, 25% said that the police were either indifferent or hostile.  In 2015, 31% of LGBTQ survivors who interacted with police said they experienced misarrest, meaning the survivor was arrested rather than the abusive partner, up from 17% in 2014.  ’Negative and violent experiences with law enforcement where survivors are revictimized are exacerbated with LGBTQ survivors of color, LGBTQ survivors with disabilities, undocumented survivors and other communities that hold multiple marginalized identities which are frequently subjected to violence by police’, said Aaron Eckhardt from BRAVO in Ohio.  ‘Police must be trained to recognize signs of IPV in LGBTQ relationships.  Moreover, we must also seek and create alternatives to the criminal legal system, especially for the safety of those whose identities are already criminalized in our society’.”
  • IPV can be deadly for LGBTQ people. NCAVP documented 13 IPV homicides in 2015.  “’We know that this number does not accurately represent the total number of IPV related homicides of LGBTQ people in the U.S.’, said Beverly Tilery from the New York City Anti-Violence Project.  ‘The lack of awareness and visibility in the media of LGBTQ victims of IPV contributes to this issue being ignored as a national problem.  Transgender victims are frequently misgendered and misnamed in media reports, and the intimate partner relationships of same gender couples are often reduced to friendships in media accounts of these homicides.  This needs to change’.” 

     There is a bright spot, however.   The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides protections for LGBTQ survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse.  The new report highlights the fact that currently, there are available resources for LGBTQ survivors of IPV/A.  “In 2013, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) created the first federal legislation to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  ‘VAWA-funded services like emergency shelter, crisis counseling, and attorneys are essential to helping survivors of IPV regain security’, said Justin Shaw from the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, in Missouri.”

     As I state in my national seminars and workshops, the most potent and deadliest weapon the abuser has in his/her arsenal is silence.  To make your Great Escape, you must snatch that weapon away from your abuser—and then shatter it into a million pieces!  Let the reverberating sound liberate you.

 

     To download the full NCAVP report, visit:  http://avp.org/about-avp/national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, visit my special section complete with resources and more:  http://wyattevans.com/lgbtq-domestic-violenceabuse-making-your-great-escape/  And, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901).

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