No one who falls in love and pursues a romantic relationship expects to face abuse at the hands of their partner(s). Yet domestic violence has been and currently is a public health problem, edging into the territory of public health crisis. When we think about domestic violence, the stereotypical image of the perpetrator that often comes to mind is a gruff, alcoholic working class male-bodied person in a grungy white tank top and a frail, slender-framed female-bodied person as the victim.
Abuse, in reality, transcends all forms of stereotyping. Any person that can give and receive love is also potentially subject to the treachery of abuse. It is ubiquitous in all races, genders, ages, and unfortunately, sexual orientations. For many, intimate partner violence (IPV) is viewed through lenses of heteronormativity and cissexism, which exclude the reality that many LGBTQIA+ people have faced or are currently facing.
However, studies show an urgent and alarming truth: rates of IPV among queer people are high and only rising.
Along with the stigma and discrimination that comes with being in a queer relationship, LGBTQIA+ people in relationships experience many of the same struggles that straight couples deal with. Unfortunately, this can include IPV.
Patterns of Abuse
Many of the patterns that signify abuse in a straight relationship are also found in an abusive queer relationship, such as:
- the victim’s self-esteem is slowly destroyed at the hands of the abuser
- the abuser is often controlling and manipulative
- the victim is isolated from friends and family
- the victim often feels like the abuser is the only person who could ever love them
- the victim refuses to seek help, thinking that that will only intensify the violence and/or manipulation
However, queer victims experience some differences that make it especially hard to seek help and escape the relationship. These include:
- their abuser threatening to “out” them to homophobic family and/or friends;
- fear of “outing” themselves to law enforcement at the risk of discrimination;
- fear of reporting their abuser for the sake of the queer community at large. Some victims feel the need to “perform” their happiness in their relationship in an effort to combat homophobia and show that queer relationships are not inherently bad;
- the likelihood of fighting back. Queer victims of IPV are more likely to fight back and therefore, it is more likely that the conflict will be seen as a “fair fight’ (especially altercations between cis gay men) in the eyes of law enforcement.
When dealing with IPV in queer communities, it is important for cishet people to keep in mind that queer people, especially queer men and male-bodied folx face abuse as well. When these folx are discussing their experiences, they are not doing so in an effort to derail discussions about misogyny and toxic masculinity. In fact, for many queer men and male-bodied folx, it is the opposite: the abuse they experience is a DIRECT result of toxic masculinity.
Shedding light on IPV is crucial to any community but especially for those who are in queer relationships. Resources for queer survivors of IPV are almost non-existent due to the lack of awareness about the epidemic within the community.
Who a person chooses to love or how they express their gender should not affect their access to resources for escaping a dangerous, abusive environment. As a society, we need to step up and do a better job at protecting everyone from the pervasive effects of abuse. For more information on resources for you or someone you know who may be experiencing IPV, click here.
For queer people who have or are currently experiencing IPV, it is important to keep in mind several things:
- You are worth so much more than what you’re going through
- Love is great and we know that it feels good to love and be loved but you can find a love that does not come with the danger, degradation, and disrespect that IPV brings
- If you are worried about being outed to your friends and family, reach out to any other queer folx you may know and try to build a strong network of support. Make sure that someone is there for you. You are not alone.