Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Intimate Partner Violence
Partner abuse comes slipping into the relationship quietly. The abuse slowly ebbs and flows over a period of time, until one day you realize you are neck deep in an abusive situation. A sharp word here, a put down there, a slow eroding of you, that begins without notice but carries on until you doubt your own worth, or that you do deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration.
Partner abuse is something as common in gay, bi, and lesbian relationships as it is in the straight world, but it's largely ignored in the glbt communities. We need to start talking about it, need to fill the gaps our knowledge that, yes, this occurs, and, hopefully, as marriage equality spreads through our country, the police and court systems will finally catch up. It's taken them quite a bit to catch up to men being abused by their wives, but better late than never, yeah?
An abuser is an abuser, no matter what the relationship looks like: m/f, f/f, m/m, or trans/partner. It seems that partner abuse has very few differences from the straight world to the glbt world. The only big difference is the potential threat of being outed, should the partner being abused seek help. Often that is one of the threats the abuser will use against you. "I'll tell your (parents, work, etc)". And so you stay, for more eroding of your self confidence, more bruises, and a continuing downward spiral of isolation from family and friends.
Emotional abuse means that your needs are never an important consideration, ever. He always comes first: his wants, his desires, him, him, him. He's always too busy, too tired, too broke, needs money for something he needs right this minute, etc.; you will just have to wait for him to be not be busy, tired, broke etc, etc, in other words, you will be in waiting in line, for it to be your turn for the rest of your life.
He tells you how lucky you are that he stays with you. You're unworthy of love and affection; he is doing you a favor by staying. After a while, you begin to believe him; you are so lucky he stays with worthless you.
"You're not really going to wear that, are you? You need to lose weight, get something done with what passes for hair, get some sun, shave/grow appropriate body hair, etc, etc."
It's a constant run down on your looks and what you wear. Of course, some of your "flaws" are things that aren't fixable, like the fact your hair is defecting from the kingdom of your head. So, you go on a diet, pour lotions and potions on your head, tan, gain weight, etc.; anything to please him and hope for some kind words.
He cuts you down in front of his friends, his family, your family, anyone, and everyone. He tells you, and anyone that will listen, how stupid you are. He blows normal mistakes into huge stories that make you appear a complete buffoon. Until you get to the point where you are afraid to open your mouth, voice an opinion, or want to visit with your family and any friends you still have left. At that moment in time, he has won, he now has a slave that will never tell him no. Emotional abuse is hardest to get past. The self doubt that was planted into you, will never fully be weeded from you. It takes constant weed whacking to believe that you do deserve better, you are worthy of a loving relationship, your needs do matter, they don't need to come last, you may take a turn at being first in line!
Sexual abuse is never about sex, but about power, the taking of it. Forcing you to engage in sexual acts you aren't comfortable doing, forcing you to have sex period, is abusive. With holding sex can also be a part of the abuse cycle, but that is usually hand cuffed to physical put downs as to why he wont have sex with you. It doesn't matter one nano gram at all if you begin the sexual encounter being a willing partner, only to later changing your mind. You are allowed to change your mind, you are allowed to say NO! at any point during sex. If he tells you "I was to worked up to quit!" Well then, he is no better than an animal, yeah? Sex is about giving and sharing, not taking and forcing. For the vast majority of us, sex isn't about causing pain in our partners, isn't forcing them to do something they don't want to do. However, having said that, we need to contrast abusive sex with BDSM, which are two completely different animals. Because at the bottom of a BDSM relationship is trust, safe words and most importantly, this is something that both partners want, they know each others limits, and just how far they want and can be pushed; which is not what sexual abuse is like at all.
Physical abuse starts with a slap, and apology and then a "honeymoon" period. As time flows by however the physical abuse ramps up, the honeymoon periods shorten, and it takes less and less for him to strike you, and the physical abuse gets more and more intense, doing ever greater damage. You can't muck about with this, you need to get out and now.
Leaving is often when it becomes very dangerous to your life. No matter how badly you have been beaten before, after you leave is when his rage becomes unhinged. Before you leave, you need to do some ground work first, you need an exit plan, and it has to be fool proof. If you can't get any relief from the police/courts, then its going to be all up to you as to how to get out safely and stay alive. It might take you a few weeks, a month or so to get your ducks lined up, but take the time to do so. The only way to flee without a safety net, is if you fear for your life Now! Then by all means RUN RUN RUN! Don't wait to pack anything, just flee for your life. Everything is replaceable except you. There are shelters out there for men, and many will take in GLBT. If you live in a very small community where there are no shelters for anyone except women, then you are going to need to get creative at a point in your life when your creative jug is empty. If nothing else, drive as far as you are able to, and stay in a hotel, do not stay local, get as much distance between you and him.
Your family members. Speaking as a mother, no matter how long its been since you've been able to be with them, they will most likely take you in. Don't call ahead, just show up. If they are the closed minded sort who when you came out to them they threw you away, give them a second chance. They might hate the fact that they lost you, but didn't want to lose "face" by trying to contact you again. And lets be honest, if you're not out to them and you are over the age of 30, and have had male "room mates" since you left home/college, believe me they know. Take a chance and go to them, give them a chance to be a wonderful parent. If that door is firmly closed? Then try your friends, yes the ones who no longer call you, because he pushed them out of your life. We are talking life or death here, only the most callus of people would turn you away in your time of need.
Resources: If you know of others in your area, please add them to the comment section.
For USA http://gmdvp.org/
New York City http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/html/issues/lesbian.shtml
Los Angles http://www.lagaycenter.org/site/PageServer?pagename=YH_DV_Family_Violence_Partner_Abuse
North Carolina http://www.projectrainbownet.org/resources.html
For Canadians http://www.gaypartnerabuseproject.org/
For Australians http://www.anothercloset.com.au
International resource list http://www.safe4all.org/resource-list/index?category=3
If you are a woman, and are facing domestic violence, please understand I don't think lightly of your plight, only that there are very few resources for battered men and even less available for gay men. People "get" that women are all to often victims of ipv, but less likely to think men can be and are victims of people they love.