The Other Side of Love, Part Two: Partner Abuse in LGBT Communities
June 13, 2013
So what can you do about it if you find yourself trapped in an abusive relationship? Look for the warning signs.
First of all, stop blaming yourself and stop making excuses for the person who is hurting you. If he or she is abnormally jealous and claiming that's a sign of their love for you, it's not, it's possessive behavior. Jealousy has little to do with love and trust and more to do with claiming ownership. Look out too for controlling behavior; someone who wants to take over the running of your life, claiming that they're doing it for your safety and organizational purposes. They may get angry if you're late, or angry if you make a mistake. They may begin to question you about every move you make and eventually you won't be able to make personal decisions for yourself. They may even take pleasure in bringing you down in company, to reinforce the fact that you are the lesser being in the relationship. Time to think about if you really want this or not.
Don't jump into a domestic, "living together" situation too soon. You don't know that person yet but he or she may already be desperate to "acquire" you as a possession. They may start the courtship with a whirlwind of intense compliments, praise and declarations of undying devotion and you will feel pressured into commitment; like the spider and the fly! This can especially apply to people who have just come out, or are new to the scene; these people are especially vulnerable to flattery. Watch out too if you find your friends gradually falling off and your partner becomes unwilling to socialize. They may be trying to isolate you. Innocent flirting may get you into a heap of trouble but you should retain your own social structures; they're there to fall back on.
Many abusers will blame the world and his dog for their problems and shortcomings. Eventually you will be pressured into compensating and going out of your way to make their lives more comfortable. It's a tactic to increase your dependence and loyalty. As a result of this, you may also get the blame for things, including their anger and aggression. Your partner will become the "victim" in the relationship and it will turn out to be your fault. Can you see the pattern? Look out for hypersensitivity too. Even the most innocent remark may set them off and it will become your responsibility to keep them happy. They may become Jekyll and Hyde and you will end up walking on broken glass before you realize it.
Check out their past before entering into the relationship. Look at their friends and ask about past relationships. If they react aggressively to questions about their past, that may already be a warning sign. It may sound cynical but asking them their views and attitudes on various subjects may reveal signs of a cruel or dominating nature. You need to develop a sixth sense and although you'll make mistakes, it's better to be safe than sorry. Finally, on the list of red flags to watch out for: walk away and stay away the very moment a hand is raised in anger and it looks as though you may be struck. You may be the biggest bitch, the worst lover and a complete douche bag yourself but you never, ever deserve physical abuse and you should have zero tolerance from day one. Never give second chances to abusers; they feed on them.
If it gets to the point where you've got to get out and are strong enough to do it; go to friends, find a safe place and get away to gather your thoughts. Create a safety plan. Gather your important documents together ready to go (passport, driving license, insurance papers etc). You can leave your other things behind for now; your safety must come first. If you feel you need to report the abuse to the authorities (and in the best of all possible worlds, you would do that) then contact your local LGBT organization first. They may have invaluable experience about the best way to go about that and the best people to turn to. If you do go to the police, you have a right to a sympathetic hearing and action but whether you get that often depends on where you live and the climate at the time. Again, your local gay organizations should be able to advise. In cities like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, the police are being trained in same-sex relationships and same-sex abuse cases but in other more remote places, that may not be a realistic expectation.
"We're just now beginning to take same-sex domestic violence out of the closet," said Jennifer Rakowski, associate director of Community United Against Violence, a group that provides crisis intervention and court advocacy in San Francisco. "We had to get acceptance as individuals first."
The bottom line is that the more you learn about same-sex relationships and the potential for abuse, the better you will be able to make informed decisions. The problem is that very few people enter into relationships with this in mind; it's just not realistic. It's important then to be a good friend; if you see someone in a relationship withdrawing into themselves and being clearly unhappy, don't hang back to give them privacy; ask as a friend would do, if anything's wrong and then keep a close eye on the situation. Any bruises, cuts, bone breaks etc that don't have a perfectly reasonable explanation may give you reason to worry but don't confront your friend with the question; "Are you being abused," they may run a mile or react angrily. Make sure first but use tact and diplomacy; someone being abused doesn't want you to know about it! As I said, be a friend.
We need to learn again how to support each other. Our community organizations need to open up and talk about an issue that takes place behind closed doors and develop support systems to catch the victims when they fall and support the prosecution of the perpetrators. Abuse is never okay; it's the last resort of a coward and a bully but realizing that the victim is not in control of his or her destiny is equally important. We support the victims of drug use and disease within our communities; those who are battered by their partners deserve better than closed doors and lack of understanding. You abuse one of us, you abuse us all!
Finally, this short but moving YouTube video encapsulates the whole problem and sums up why constructive help is so necessary.
Read Dave's blog, HIV, Neuropathy and More: Avoiding Becoming a Nervous Wreck.
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