Exerpted from "MEN WHO
BEAT THE MEN WHO LOVE THEM" by Island &
MYTH ONE: Only
Straight Women Get Battered; Gay Men Are Never Victims of Domestic Violence.
This is not true. The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project at the
Community United Against Violence (CUAV) in San Francisco estimates that
for every police incident report on gay men's domestic violence that CUAV
receives, there are between 10 and 20 incidents that go unreported.
Clearly, not only are gay men victims of domestic violence, but they are
being battered at an alarming rate.
This myth hits on one of the cornerstones of denial about gay men's
domestic violence; that men are never victims. This idea is both
sexist and dangerous. Just as lesbian battering forces us to admit
that some women batter their partners, gay men's domestic violence forces
us to look at some men as victims, which contradicts all the stereotypes
we have in our society about men. Domestic violence is not a gender
issue. It is a power issue, and a mental health issue. The
truth is that men can be victims of domestic violence.
MYTH TWO: Domestic Violence
is More Common in Straight Relationships Than in Gay Male Relationships.
This is not true. There is no reason to assume that gay men are less
violent than heterosexual men. We estimate that at least 500,000
gay men are abused by their lovers each year in the United States.
With two men in a relationship it is possible that domestic violence occurs
more frequently in a gay male community than in straight America .
One thing is certain: domestic violence is acknowledged, talked about,
and dealt with more in straight relationships than in gay male relationships.
MYTH THREE: Gay Men's
Domestic Violence Is a "Fight", and When Two Men Fight, It Is a Fair
Fight Between Equals.
This is not true. This myth draws on our inability or unwillingness
to look at violence between two people of the same sex, particularly men,
as a violent situation where one person is clearly a victim. This
is referred to as the "Boxing Ring" myth, based on the idea that domestinc
violence is two men battling it out, and that it is "fair". This
myth also falsely assumes that both men are ready and willing to be physically
violent with each other. There is nothing fair about domestic violence:
being knocked against a wall and punched in the face by your angry lover
does not entail fairness.
Furthermore, this myth completely overlooks psychological abuse and
material destruction. You do not have to be hit to be a victim of
domestic violence, and one should not underestimate the damage that psychological
abuse can cause.
"My bruises healed abaout a week after I left my ex-lover, but two
years later I was still dealing with the traces fo his constant criticism
and the erosion of my self-esteem.
MYTH FOUR: It Is Not
Really Violence When Two Men Fight; It Is Normal; It Is Boys Being Boys.
This is not true. This myth adresses the larger societal attitude
that exists about male violence; that it is acceptable for men to be violent;
that it is normal; that it is, somehow, okay.
There is nothing normal about domestic violence. The "boys being
boys' idea may have been harmless when we were all six years old, but when
a man is 26 years old, is in the hospital with broken bones, and his lover
broke them, this is not normal ! This is much more than boys being
boys. It is violence. Unfortunately, this myth is pervasive
in the gay male community . With few positive relationship role models
available, many gay men tend to view and accept violence by their partners
as the norm.
MYTH FIVE: Gay Men's
Domestic Violence Is Just a Lovers' Quarrel.
This is not true. There is a tremendous difference between a lovers'
quarrel and domestic violence. All lovers and all couples have quarrels.
It is a normal and healthy part of human relationships. Violence,
however, is not an acceptable way to resolve a lovers' quarrel, no matter
how severe or intense the disagreement. In addition, dismissing domestic
violence as "just a lovers' quarrel" is to say that violence between two
people who are in a relationship together is acceptable. We contend,
of course, that violence is never acceptable. This myth also fails to take
into account psychological abuse, which is a large part of the domestic
violence picture. Being harassed on the telephone at work, having
your lover threaten suicide if you leave him, and being continually shouted
at are some of the psychologically destructive forces at work in domestic
violence, making it much more than "just a lovers' quarrel".
MYTH SIX: The
Batterer Will Always Be Bigger and Stronger; the Victim Will Always Be
Smaller and Weaker.
This is not true. A man who is 5`7", prone to violence, and very
angry , can do a lot of damage to someone who is 6`2", twenty pounds heavier,
and a non-violent person. Size, weight, butchness, queeniness, or
any other physical attribute or role are not good indicators of whether
or not a man will be a victim or a batterer. Again, this myth focuses
only on the physical aspects of domestic violence. A batterer does
not need to be build like a linebacker to smash your compact discs, cut
up all your clothing, or threaten to tell everyone at work that you are
really a ‘queer'. Violence is a matter of personal choice, not body
MYTH SEVEN: Men Who
Are Abusive While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol Are Not Responsible
for Their Actions.
This is not true. Drugs and alcohol are excuses for violence, and
this myth takes responsibility off the batterer for his violent behaviour
and puts it on drugs and/or alcohol. The truth is that violence
is a choice, and the responsibility for making that choice is the batterer's.
It is important not to underestimate the degree to which people cling
to this myth to excuse or justify violence or to blur the responsibility
for it. This myth is so widely held in the gay community that many
gay men believe that their gay brothers (unlike heterosexual men, evidently)
do not batter their partners, but if it happens, surely drugs and alcohol
are involved. If a person who batters is also on drugs or alcohol,
that person has two separate and serious problems. Violence is a choice,
and many gay men who are violent with their lovers are men who do not drink
or use drugs. My ex-lover was a prime example.
MYTH EIGHT: Gay Men's
Domestic Violence Has Increased as a Result of the AIDS Epidemic, Alcoholism,
and Drug Abuse.
This is not true. AIDS, drugs, alcohol, the devil, or any other problem,
condition, or dilemma a gay man finds himself in does not cause domestic
violence. Because perpetrators decide to be violent, their own conscious
intent is the cause of every violent act they commit.
This is one of the most tenacious myths because many people attribute
outside forces as the cause of behaviour. Such outside forces may
well be correlated with certain conduct, but they do not cause the conduct.
For example, alcohol does not cause traffic fatalities, drunk drivers cause
The stress of AIDS and the abuse of drugs do not cause increases in
domestic violence. Violent men cause increases in domestic violence.
MYTH NINE: Gay Men's
Domestic Violence Is Sexual Behaviour, a Version of Sado-Masochism; the
Victims Actually Like It.
This is not true. Domestic violence is not sexual behaviour.
Domestic violence and sado-
masochism (S&M) are entirely different. In S&M relationships,
there is usually some contract or agreement about the limits or the boundaries
of the behaviour in which each person is willing to partake, even when
pain is involved. Domestic violence entails no such contract.
There is nothing fun or exciting about being punched in the ribs while
watching TV, or about being told repeatedly you are so ugly that nobody
else would want you. Domestic violence is abuse, manipulation and
control that is unwanted by the victim.
As for victims of domestic violence "liking" the violence, the following
questions are posed:
Do victims of any violent crime enjoy the violence? Do people who are
raped or mugged enjoy it?
If you were to be attacked by two gay-bashers with baseball bats, would
anyone assume that you enjoyed the violence? Like victims of other
violent crimes, victims of domestic violence do not enjoy the violence
they experience. Unfortunately, this myth is also pervasive within
the gay male community, where it allows gay men to dismiss or trivialize
domestic violence, or to deny its existence. And again, s with some
of the other myths, victims are the people who suffer most from the false
belief that they enjoy the violence. When they finally come out and
start telling people that they are being abused by their lovers, they are
often ridiculed, or teased about enjoying pain, or simply not believed.
Belief in this myth allows the gay community to ignore the cries of victims
of domestic violence and do nothing to help them.
MYTH TEN: The Law Does
Not and Will Not Protect Victims of Gay Men's Domestic Violence
This is not true everywhere. Unfortunately, it depends entirely on
where you live in the United States, and on what particular police officer
responds to your call. People living in states that have sodomy laws,
or who live in rural areas of the country, may have much more difficulty
with the police and the legal system than men who live in other regions.
In some cities great strides have been made in sensitizing and educating
the police about both gay relationships and about domestic violence.
Seattle, for example, has a judicial system in which gay and lesbian batterers
can be arrested and court-ordered into treatment programs designed
specifically for homosexual batterers (Farley, 1990). This, of course,
is no guarantee that sthe police officer who arrives at your front door
will not be a homo-hating bigot, no matter where you live. In many
areas of the country, however, the police can and will help victims of
gay men's domestic violence.
This myth rests on the premise that because you are gay, the entire
legal system, and perhaps the police in particular, will not help you.
Indeed, many victims of domestic violence have experienced further victimization
and homophobia in dealing with the legal bureaucracy. What always needs
to be kept in mind, however, is that heterosexuality is not a criterion
for protection under the law. As gay people we often have to demand
our rights, and one of those rights is protection under the law from a
violent person, regardless of the nature of our relationship with that
In San Francisco, the police, the courts, and the entire legal system
are all on the side of the victim. A difficulty in the past has been
getting the police to acknowledge the existence of gay men's domestic violence
when filling out their incident reports. That is, the police have
been unwilling to even acknowledge gay male relationships, and their inability
or unwillingness to see men as victims has influenced their underreporting
of gay men's domestic violence. Until just recently, most cases of
gay domestic violence have been reported as "mutual combat", going right
back to the "Fair Fight Between Equals" myth.
Battery is a crime. Thus, while it may take the police a while
to recognize gay men's domestic violence, they must always be on the side
of the victim.
People who work with victims of gay men's domestic violence are advised
to investigate the local legal channels themselves, so that with some degree
of confidence they can encourage male victims to talke advantage of the
help the police can provide. At the very least, medical personnel
and therapists should be able to help victims prepare for possible homophobia
and further victim-
ization by police in their state, county and precinct. Victims
of gay men's domestic violence are encouraged to contact the police not
only because of the invaluable help and security they can provide, but
also so that we move beyond the long history of animosity that has existed
between the police and the gay community.
Finally, keep in mind that victims do not have to "come out" when they
contact the police. In many places when you call the police it may
be best not to tell them that the man attacking you is your boyfriend or
lover. Tell them only that you are being attacked and need help.
Later, when filling out police reports, you may decide it is safe to identify
your attacker as your partner.
Overall, my experience with the San Francisco Police as an openly gay
male victim of domestic violence was very positive. Only once did
I experience blatant homohatred, when two police-
women refused to file an incident report about a restraining order
violation and referred to me as "she" and "this woman" to each other and
to other officers in my presence. (Eventually, I had to go to another
station to file the report.) Since I left Stephen, he has violated
two Restraining Orders a total of 11 times, and I have made countless trips
to police stations. In almost all instances, when I told the police
that the man I was trying to protect myself from was my ex- lover, they
were generally more cooperative and seemed to take me more seriously.
MYTH ELEVEN: Victims
Often Provoke the Violence Done to Them; They Are Getting What They Deserve.
This is not true. This myth perpetuates the idea that the victims
are responsible for the violence done to them, that somehow victims cause
batterers to be violent. Again, violent behaviour is solely hte responsibility
of the violent person. The victim is responsible for staying in the
ship, but that does not make him responsible for the violence.
This myth is common among both batterers and victims of domestic violence,
and believing in it may be one of the forces that keeps a victim in a relationship
with a violent partner. If victims believe that they are the cause
of and are deserving of the violence, they may not make the necessary efforts
to get out of the relationship.
MYTH TWELVE: Victims
Exaggerate the Violence That Happens to Them; If It Were Really Bad, They
Would Just Leave.
This is not true. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Most
victims tend to trivialize and minimize the violence that happens to them.
One reason for minimization is that there is a tremendous amount of guilt,
shame, and self-blame associated with being a victim of domestic violence.
Since victims are ashamed of what they have experienced, they downplay
how bad the violence has actually been.
A second, and perhaps more powerful reason for the trivialization of
violence, is that when gay men "come out" as victims of domestic violence
to their friends and family and begin telling people about the abuse they
have experienced, often they are not believed. Victims are accused
of making it up, of "making a big deal" out of it, or of simply exaggerating
the violence. Victims quickly learn to avoid the unpleasant denial, criticism,
and blame by telling people few details of the violence they have experienced
and downplaying its severity.
As for "if it were really bad, victims would just leave", keep in mind
that it may actually be harder for the victim to leave the relationship
than it is to stay. He may be threatened with more harass-
ment or violence or murder if he tries to leave. Leaving his
batterer may mean leaving his home and all of his things behind.
It may mean dealing with friends and family and co-workers who do not believe
him or blame him for the violence. It means dealing with scores of
people, some counsellors included, who encourage him to return, to "stop
provoking" the abuser, to try to change and to try to work it out.
And it may mean dealing with the police, medical, legal, and social services
that are perceived as, and may very well be, homophobic.
MYTH THIRTEEN: It Is
Easier For Gay Male Victims of Domestic Violence To Leave Their Violent
Partners Than It Is For Heterosexual Battered Women
This is not true. This myth is based on many false assumptions and
prejudices about gay men and their love relationships, such as the myth
that gay men flit from lover to lover, or that gay male relationships are
sexual but not emotional. Gay couples are as intertwined and involved
in each other's lives as straight couples. Similar to many straight
battered women, many battered bay men are raising children, are financially
dependent on their violent partners, and feel that a failed relationship
represents their failure as a person.
Unlike straight women, however, many gay men are alienated from their
families of origin due to homophobia and heterosexism. Thus, they
may place even greater value on their love relationship as it may be their
only family, their only source of support. Living in a homohating
society, many gay couples also descibe heir relationships as having an
"us-against-the-world" quality, further unifying the two men, and making
it more difficult for the victim to extricate himself.
It is naive or ignorant to assume that it is easier for gay men to
leave their violent partners than it is for anyone else to do so.
MYTH FOURTEEN: Gay Men's
Domestic Violence Occurs Primarily Among Men Who Hang Out in Bars, Are
Poor, or Are People of Colour.
This is not true. Domestic Violence crosses all racial, ethnic, religious,
educational, and class boundaries. It is a non-discriminatory phenomenon.
This myth grows out of the higher visibility in the social services that
some disenfranchised groups have, as well as the asumption that domestic
violence is an alcohol-related phenomenon. The gay community needs
to recognize that wealthy, white, educated, "politically correct" gay men
batter their lovers as much as does any other group in our society.
MYTH FIFTEEN: Victims
of Domestic Violence Are Codependent
This is not true. There is little, if anything, in the codependency
literature that is helpful in under-
standing the dynamics of domestic violence. Domestic violence
is not a relationship problem. Victims are not "partners in dependency"
with their batterers. The two have separate psychological problems:
the batterer is violent, and the victim is in a relationship with a violent
This myth is based on a complete lack of understanding of domestic
violence. For example, because victims use many coping strategies
to survive in life-threatening situations, their behaviour may appear to
be like that of a so-called "co-dependent". Their adaptive behaviours in
a dangerous situation are mislabeled codependency. Victims of domestic
violence do not meet the codependent profile criteria. Labeling them
codependent is yet another attempt to blur responsibility for the violence
and take it off the shoulders of the batterer.
THE TWELVE UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES
Behind any theory are concepts and principles, a point of view about the
nature of the phenomenon that is being explained by the theory. Our
theory of gay men's domestic violence has twelve such underlying principles.
1. Domestic violence is unacceptable human behaviour. Gay men's
domestic violence cannot be tolerated by members of the gay community,
and it must be unambiguously condemned by our entire society.
2. Gay men's domestic violence is not difficult to identify.
There is a clear, easy-to-remember definition of domestic violence, a nd
the victim is the one who decides if violence is happening or not.
3. Domestic violence is a crime. There are both criminal and
civil consequences for assault, battery, rape, and property destruction.
4. Federal, state, and local laws stand properly behind the victims
of gay men's domestic violence. The judicial branch of government,
law enforcement, and social service institutions of America exist to protect
gay men who are victims of domestic violence.
5. Domestic violence is the most primitive method of solving power
problems and "getting your way" known to humankind. Resorting to
violence is ample evidence of a lack of proper development in the perpetrator
and evidence of his lack of adequate methods of reasoning.
6. Batterers choose to be violent, decide to be abusive and premeditatively
intend to harm, but they are not insane or crazy. They suffer from
a learned, progressive, diagnosable, and curable mental disorder.
There is no other way to view these men. No well-functioning, mentally
healthy man engages in domestic violence.
7. Nothing justifies gay men's domestic violence. All attempts
at rationalizing and justifying it are to be repudiated.
(Self-defense is not domestic violence.)
8. The perpetrator is responsible for every act of violence that
he commits. No victim is ever the cause of violence done to him nor
does he ever deserve it. The perpetrator chooses violence and is
accountable for his decision.
9. The victim is responsible for staying in a relationship with a
violent partner. It is always up to the victim to exit such a relationship.
10. Domestic violence occurs in the gay community with the same or greater
frequency as in the heterosexual community.
11. Violence is learned at home by imitating and modeling significant others,
and through many other societal and psychological mechanisms.
12. Violence in the home can be stopped. Violent behaviour can be
curbed and unlearned by the perpetrators, and rejected by the victims.
HOW DO YOU STAY OUT?
"Why not just leave?" "You guys don't have kids or anything, so why
don't you just walk out the door?" "I'd leave the first time it happened.
Why did you put up with it?"
These are some of the most common remarks made to victims of domestic
violence. Nobody seems to understand why victims stay with the men
who batter them. A short list of ten common reasons for staying is
also helpful here.
This list could actually be a lot longer, and pages of "reasons to stay"
could be written. The focus of this section, however, is on how to
help victims stay out once they leave their partners. We fully acknowledge
that victims of domestic violence are up against walls of opposition and
unimaginable difficulties as they try to stay away from their (stalking)
abusive partners. As many vicitims may know, leaving is one thing,
but staying away is completely different. Staying away is at first
a full-time, 24-hour-a-day job. It is also very difficult to do alone.
What follows here are five tips that are instrumental in helping victims
stay out of their relationships with violent men. Since we know that
victims are bombarded with confusion and difficulties during their first
weeks and months after escaping, we do not list 75 more things for them
to remember. We hope and believe that if the five tips presented
here are followed, staying out may not only be possible, it may be a lot
1. The victims love their batterers.
2. Victims do not want to leave the men they love; they only want
the violence to stop.
3. Victims hope and believe, often for a long time, that the violence
4. The violence is periodic, and the loving periods between
violent episodes entice the victims to stay.
5. Victims may believe they provoke or cause or deserve the
6. Victims are often told by others that they provoke or cause
or deserve the violence.
7. They may have left before but were encouraged by friends,
family, therapists, the clergy, or the police to "go home" where they belong.
8 Victims may have tried to leave and been beaten for
9. Learned helplessness sets in, and victims no longer believe
they can escape.
10. Victims are threatened with more violence, or even death, if they try
to leave, and, with good reason, they believe these threats.
1. Find a Lay Helper
2. Contact Support
3. Get a Restraining Order
4. Develop Crisis Rules
5. Stay Focused
These tips are not applicable to all gay male victims. How you
manage to get support and stay out of your relationship with a violent
man will depend, in part, on where you live, how much money you have, what
resources you have access to, and many other factors. Remember, wherever
you are, whatever your situation, it is possible to get out and stay out.