Seattle Gay News

August 9, 2002

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Bold new forum brings domestic violence home

Gay City and NW Network sponsor event

By Robert Raketty
Staff Writer

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 be ignored.

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 they’re 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 don’t 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 who’s 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 can’t because there are no shelters for men."

"Domestic Disturbance" is part of Gay City’s 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 men’s health organization in Seattle that is trying to look at a variety of Queer men’s 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."

line.jpg (1451 bytes) Tacoma United for Fairness gears up for battle

Basic Rights Garden Party planned, volunteers needed

By Robert Raketty
Staff Writer

Tacoma United for Fairness (TUFF), a group working to preserve protections for LGBT citizens in Tacoma, is gearing up this week to do battle with the anti-gay activists. The anti-gay group Help Us Take Back Tacoma Again, co-founded by retired business owner Doug Delin and convicted felon Hap Butler, turned in 6,204 signatures to the Tacoma city clerk’s office. The group needs only 4,048 signatures to put their repeal effort before voters in November. The Pierce County Auditor spent the week verifying the validity of the signatures.

On Saturday, August 17, the Seattle Human Rights Campaign and Beaulieu Vineyards will host a fundraiser for TUFF titled "Basic Rights Garden Party." The event is scheduled to take place in Tacoma, Washington. A suggested donation of $25 per person is requested although no one will be turned away because of their ability to pay. For more information about the Basic Rights Garden Party, call 253-988-4741 or e-mail hien@bigplanet.com.

Julie Anderson, TUFF campaign manager, says that voter ID efforts pose particular challenges. "We are counting on our friends from Seattle, Olympia and all the surrounding areas to join Tacoma walkers. Our number one need is doorbelling, without a doubt. We have to ID 27,500 voters. We are going to be doing a big phone program, that will take a good number - perhaps up to 15,000. However, that leaves us 10,000 to ID on foot. If you do the math, that is an incredible amount of volunteers we need," she said.

"We are having a hard time getting people to volunteer, physically show up to help us doorbell. People who do doorbell come back to do it again and again. However, getting those $10 donors, major donors or anybody out to doorbell is a real challenge for us right now. I think it is because people don’t feel like it is an emergency yet, but they also don’t understand the nature of the campaign. Before it becomes an emergency, we have to have our voters ID’ed."

TUFF’s doorbelling kicks off on Saturday, August 24, and will feature a free BBQ. Folks are expected to meet at 9 a.m. at the TUFF campaign headquarters (623 St. Helens, Tacoma).

"We will have our first BBQ to kick off our doorbelling event. We are also doorbelling on Sunday, August 25, at 4 p.m.," said Anderson. "That cycle is repeated all through September, we do that every weekend. We doorbell 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Sunday 4 - 7:30 p.m. We are also doing Thursday nights."

To date, TUFF has raised over $35,000 and has registered over 200 voters, most members of Tacoma’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

[TUFF can be reached at www.ufftacoma.org or by calling 253-272-3444.]

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