Exerpted from "MEN WHO BEAT THE MEN WHO LOVE THEM" by Island & Letellier

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 size.

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 them.
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 person.
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 relation-
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 man.
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. 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. 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. 3.  Domestic violence is a crime.  There are both criminal and civil consequences for assault, battery, rape, and property destruction.
  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 10. Domestic violence occurs in the gay community with the same or greater frequency as in the heterosexual community.
  11. 11. Violence is learned at home by imitating and modeling significant others, and through many other societal and psychological mechanisms.
  12. 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.
  1. 1.  The victims love their batterers.
  2. 2.  Victims do not want to leave the men they love; they only want the violence to stop.
  3. 3.  Victims hope and believe, often for a long time, that the violence will stop.
  4. 4.   The violence is periodic, and the loving periods between violent episodes entice the victims to stay.
  5. 5.   Victims may believe they provoke or cause or deserve the violence.
  6. 6.   Victims are often told by others that they provoke or cause or deserve the violence.
  7. 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. 8    Victims may have tried to leave and been beaten for it.
  9. 9.   Learned helplessness sets in, and victims no longer believe they can escape.
  10. 10. Victims are threatened with more violence, or even death, if they try to leave, and, with good reason, they believe these threats.
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 easier.
     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.