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Same-Sex Battering
At Issue: Homophobia in Society

By Ron Chambers

Although a great deal has been written about domestic violence, almost all of it focuses on the violence of men against their current or former wives or girlfriends. Yet studies have shown that partner abuse is as common and as severe among same-sex couples as among heterosexual couples. After years of willful or negligent silece, the gay/lesbian/bisexual communities, the battered women's communities, academicians, and even portions of the general public are beginning to realize that same-sex domestic violence is a serious social and public health issue.

Lesbians and gay men often experience a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the abuse when reporting incidences of violence to a therapist, police officer, or medical personnel. Homophobia in society denies the reality of lesbian and gay men's lives, including the existence of lesbian and gay male relationships, let alone abusive ones. When abuse exists, attitudes often range from "who cares" to "these relationships are generally unstable or unhealthy." In fact, there are several myths about abuse in lesbian and gay men relationships. As a society, we must become aware of the silence and prevailing misconceptions about partner abuse in lesbian and gay male relationships. In my next article, I will explore some of these misconceptions.

Lesbians and gay men who have been abused have much more difficulty finding sources of support than do heterosexual women who are battered by their male partners. Utilizing existing services (such as a shelter, attending support groups or calling a crisis line) either means lying about the pronoun of the batterer to gain acceptance as a heterosexual, or it means "coming out", which is a major life decision. If lesbians and gay men come out to providers who are not discreet with this information, it could lead to losing their homes, jobs, custody of their children, etc. (depending on local and statewide laws, which vary).

Receiving support services to help one escape a battering relationship is more difficult when there are also oppressions faced. Battered lesbians automatically encounter sexism and homophobia, and gay men encounter homophobia. Lesbian or gay people of color who are battered also face racism. These forms of social oppression make it more difficult for these groups to get the support needed (legal, financial, social, housing, etc.) to escape and live freely from an abusive relationship.Women in Distress of Broward County, Inc. (WID), a non-profit organization that was founded in 1974, has helped pave the way for safe and reliable programs geared to intervene in domestic violence situations. Beyond prevention, intervention is a vital component of the comprehensive WID program located at their Family Center. Their mission is to stop abuse for everyone through education, intervention and treatment.

WID has recently initiated a pilot outreach program to increase counseling services to victims of domestic violence within the gay and lesbian community. WID has proposed promoting these services to the gay and lesbian communities in partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, due to the lack of such services. Very limited services exist specifically for abused and abusive lesbians and gay men. These services will help gay and lesbian clients increase their self-esteem, take control of their lives, and develop problem-solving skills.

The author is a domestic violence counselor at Women in Distress and will start counseling groups and individual sessions dealing with the issue of same-sex domestic violence. Please join us on Monday, December 4th, 2000 at the GLCCSF.

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