Thursday, May 2, 2013

Inequality between straight and gay endangering domestic violence victims

By Kelsey Mejlaender, Copy Editor

In a century that is redefining the normal family, intimate relationships are just as complicated as ever. On a national scale, society is slowly but surely beginning to see straight and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) couples as equals, and as equally normal.
   
And while normal can bring storybook romance, fun, shared memories and a future of growing old and grey together, it can also bring the ugly side of human relationships.
   
Domestic violence is a crime committed against both women and men, and it is a problem not restricted to one class, race or sexual orientation.
   

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a 2011 report in October 2012 detailing intimate partner violence in selected LGBTQ and HIV-infected communities.
   
In the report, the coalition found the majority of victims were gay men, homicide was on the rise and that more survivors were denied access to domestic violence shelters and other supportive services in 2011 than 2010.
   
The Center for American Progress also cites studies that show domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships happens at about the same rate as it happens in straight couples. One in four to one in three people in same-sex relationships, compared to one in four straight women, have experienced domestic violence.
   
Given the fact that domestic violence against men is often underreported or overlooked — see the April 26 edition of The Mooring Mast — it is likely there are even more victims of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships than accounted for in these statistics.
   
The problem for LGBTQ couples, however, is that unlike heterosexual relationships, the success of a same-sex union is often taken as “proof” of either the morality or immorality of same-sex marriage.
   
With the fate of the LGBTQ cause resting on gay couples’ shoulders, victims may shy away from admitting relationship problems or reporting domestic violence.
   
Further complicating the issue is that if the victim of violence is still not “out” as LGBTQ, the abuser can threaten to tell others. The victim may also be less likely to report the violence to authorities, as this would require explaining her or his sexual orientation.
   
When the couple has children even more issues arise. One of the parents may not be a recognized parent by state laws, so the abusive partner may deny that parent custody of his or her children.
   
Despite these obstacles, as the opinions of the public continue to evolve toward the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, couples will find more support overcoming domestic violence.
   
By advocating for more inclusive domestic violence laws and funds for support programs, society can make sure no cases of domestic violence are overlooked just because those in the relationship are LGBTQ.


GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project 24-hour hotline: 1-800-832-1901