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Breaking the Silence: Opening the Closet on Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community

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Almost half of men in the LGBTQ community have experienced some form of domestic violence.

Photo Credit: Ludovic Bertron, Flickr

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Male domestic violence survivors, particularly in the LGBTQ community, have a difficult time accessing support and resources

Even when listening to a guided meditation, Michael says it's hard to relax.
 
Michael was with his partner for 5 years before he left him. He asked we not use his last name for fear his ex will find him. As a survivor of domestic abuse, he's used to constantly looking over his shoulder. 
 
"My experience is that when you go through something like I went through, you kind of expect the other shoe to drop at any given time." Michael said.
 
Michael thought he was in a picture perfect relationship until about a year in. His husband started hitting him, calling him names and isolating him from other people.
 
For Michael, abuse runs deep. His dad raped him when he was little. When he told his partner about his past, his partner wanted to re-enact these events every time they were intimate. Michael said he thought about committing suicide many different times. 
 
"I got in the car and I would get into the garage," Michael said. "I would just start letting the car run and not stop it. I would start feeling the dissonance of the CO2. I just thought 'if I stayed a little longer than this would be over.'"
 
He tried to leave his partner at least forty times. However, he encountered difficulty finding shelters or getting any type of help as a man trying to get out of an abusive relationship.
 
At the time, he lived in Texas, and he said he wasn't getting any calls back from the services he reached out to. Finally, Michael found out about Safe Homes in New York City. He immediately relocated to their shelters. But still, he felt a serious divide between himself and the women who were in the shelter.
 
"They looked at me like I was from another planet, like it didn't look like I belonged there. I guess I was not the kind of gay they were used to or expected. I looked like I could take a punch and give another one back, what the hell was I doing there. It was very isolating."
 
The Safe Homes Project is a part of the Good Shepherd Services agency that provides counseling, support groups and shelters for survivors of domestic violence. Dani DeLade, a program coordinator at Safe Homes, said that it can be really hard for survivors of domestic violence in the LGBTQ community to integrate into the shelter. 
 
"It can be hard especially for a gay man who's in the shelter because that will be a more obvious difference in gender from some of the other survivors," DeLade said.
 
She emphasizes that there's no difference between domestic violence in the LGBTQ community and domestic violence anywhere else. 
 
"In relationships, domestic violence can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter your gender, your race, your socioeconomic background. It's about power and control," DeLade said.
 
David Kilmnick, the founder and CEO of The LGBT Network, agrees. He said domestic violence in LGBT-relationships happens for all sorts of reasons.
 
"When we take a look at a lot of the rates for domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, we're taking a look at disproportionately the LGBT community when compared to the heterosexual community," Kilmnick said. "Some of that could be related to education, knowledge, one's self-worth, living in a world that is still heterosexist and homophobic."
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of gay men and 46% of bisexual men have experienced some form of sexual violence other than rape.  But, they say only 21% of heterosexual men have reported this. Additionally,  41% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking. That's compared to the 35% among heterosexual women. 
 
Christian knows what it feels like to not be supported by society. He was in an abusive relationship for 6 years, and also asked that we not use his last name. His husband beat and verbally abused him. Christian said he remembers always feeling scared around his husband.
 
"I'm scared of him, and I cannot be with someone that I'm scared of," Christian said. "It just doesn't make sense that I'm going to sleep every night afraid that something is going to happen to me; like if I'm going to wake up in the morning, maybe he's going to be violent to me again."
 
Christian left his partner, and has some advice for people in the LGBTQ community who are going through a similar experience. 
 
"Why are you staying in that relationship if the other person is abusive to you? You keep saying 'oh he hurt me because of this or it's my fault.' No, it's not your fault. No one ever should be abusive to you. No one should ever hit you, and it doesn't matter what you did or what you didn't do. Violence is never the answer."
 
Bottom line, Christian said, you are stronger than you think.
 
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#BreakingTheSilence is a WFUV special report on domestic violence.
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