Gay City and NW Network sponsor event
By Robert Raketty
On Thursday, August 15, at 7 p.m. Gay City and the Northwest Network of Bisexual,
Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse plans to hold a forum on the issue of LGBT
domestic violence. The event, titled "Domestic Disturbance," is scheduled to
take place at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (1400 E. Prospect St.) in Volunteer Park. Fred
Swanson, executive director of Gay City, and Jake Fawcett, Transgender activist and
survivor of domestic abuse, will co-host. Swanson says this is one issue that should not
Gay City found the problem to be particularly common among relationships between Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender men. In a study conducted last year, Gay City found that forty
one percent of respondents said they had experienced domestic violence, either physical or
emotional. These are exactly the kind of statistics that Gay City and the Northwest
Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse hope to address.
"There is a taboo around the issue. I have long been frustrated by the silence
around it in the Gay community. There is a misunderstanding about abuse. There is this
thinking that violence among men is natural, the way we express ourselves. It spans the
whole spectrum. It affects all ages, all types of relationships, all races and
socio-economic classes," Swanson said. "I know people, I am friends with people
who have talked to me about violence or abuse they have experienced. We have people who
come through our doors, who volunteer in our programs and are involved with us who are
either living in a violent situation, have experienced violence in a relationship or who
currently suffer in an abusive relationship.
Basil Shadid of the Northwest Network agrees. "I think that domestic violence is
an important issue in the LGBT community. We have statistics and reports that say that it
is fairly prevalent," he said. "Most statistics show that domestic violence in
LGBT relationships is between 25-33 percent. That is about the same rate as heterosexual
relationships. So, we are trying to put equal effort into educating people about domestic
violence and working to prevent it."
Domestic Disturbance will explore the myths and realities about male-on-male domestic
violence. Organizers hope to educate its audience by creating a common language around the
issue and focusing on action steps. In addition the forum features a panel of local
professionals, most front line responders. Knowledge is power according to Swanson.
"Hopefully the forum will really help people come out of isolation and not feel so
isolated. Hopefully, it will help to break the taboo around domestic violence. Maybe the
forum will help someone recognize the situation theyre in and that there are some
resources available. That there are people who care about this issue and who want to help
them out. Help them build a relationship that is better for them or help them get out of
one that they are currently in. This forum is for the purpose of breaking the taboos and
getting the word out there so people dont feel so isolated," said Swanson.
"The intention is not to bring a whole bunch of people together to hear from
survivors or people who are living in abusive situations, but we hope we can also reach
people who may be abusing as well, who may be batters and who may also need to have
resources. Maybe they will realize that this is something they need to deal with and is
something they need to get a hold of. Now that the silence is broken, maybe they will feel
that now is the time to address the situation.
Shadid says it is hard to come up with a check list that fits all relationships but
most often in domestic violence situations, one partner will exploit the others
vulneraBilities, exert unnecessary control and become violent or verbally abusive.
"The way we talk about domestic violence or abusive relationships is that we look for
an ongoing and sustained pattern of power and control. That could happen in a variety of
different ways. It could be someone threatening to out another person or withholding
economic resources to using physical or emotional violence to control them," he said
The Northwest Network is the only organization working with LGBT survivors of abuse.
This poses particular problems for people seeking support.
"Institutionally, it would be nice to see shelter programs that are specific to
LGBT people or shelter programs that already exist who do the work to educate their staff
and make institutional changes to become a truly inclusive agency," said Shadid.
"I definitely would like to see more education and conversation in the community. I
would like to see people breaking down the myths that are in our community regarding
domestic violence and abuse.
"The Northwest Network is the only Queer specific service in Seattle for LGBT
people who are experiencing domestic violence. However, Seattle Counseling Service has a
support group for Gay men who are the survivors domestic abuse. Unfortunately, most
services for domestic violence are generally mainstream services, programs often designed
with heterosexual relationships in mind."
Swanson believes the issue is complex but a lack of resources is the Biggest challenge.
"I think it is a problem for Lesbian and Bisexual women when there are no
resources that are safe environments. For men, there are no resources in terms of shelters
or places to go. The Northwest Network has hotel vouchers sometimes they can give to a guy
whos in a violent situation. There are no shelters whatsoever and that is a real
problem," Swanson said. "The Northwest Network has really stepped up to the
plate to address the issue but it is one they can not address alone. People who have fewer
resources have fewer options in terms of getting out and finding a place to stay. If
someone can afford a hotel for example, then you may be in a better situation that someone
who cant because there are no shelters for men."
"Domestic Disturbance" is part of Gay Citys on-going commitment to
quality community forums. The forums are held each quarter, each dealing with a different
health issue relevant to Gay, Bi and Trans men.
"We are the only Queer mens health organization in Seattle that is trying to
look at a variety of Queer mens health issues for Gay, Bi and Trans men. It
definitely makes sense that we would be looking at this issue," said Swanson.
"It seemed like it was certainly an issue that needed to be discussed and there was
no one in town that could discuss it in the same way we could as far as having a community
forum. It just seemed like a logical thing for us to do. We are health organization and we
are all about health."