QLF discusses domestic violence

Elise Franco

Abusive relationships prevalent in LGBT community, but less frequently reported

The most common misconception about domestic violence is that it happens only between a man and a woman in a straight relationship. Queer Liberation Front hosted a workshop last night to show students otherwise.

It was casual and intimate, and Gary Heath, domestic violence program coordinator for the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, encouraged those in attendance to ask questions.

Heath said domestic violence in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community is just as common.

“Statistics show it’s just as prevalent in the LGBT community,” he said. “Domestic violence is based on power and control and how control is gained, not on gender.”

Heath said the only difference is many people in the LGBT community don’t always recognize that domestic abuse is happening because their relationships don’t fit the typical mold.

“Gay people are less likely to report abuse, because they feel like they are less likely to be helped,” he said.

Studies show one-in-four LGBT people are in an abusive relationship, which is the same as the general population, Heath said.

He gave two definitions of domestic abuse. The first was, “A pattern of behavior to exert or maintain control that exists in an intimate, loving relationship.” The second was, “One individual systematically abusing another to gain control in a relationship.”

Heath said the most important thing to do when victims call for help, is listen and understand them instead of immediately telling them they’ve experienced domestic violence.

“The victim has had it happen so often, that once they realize it is domestic violence, and we validate what they are saying, they want to know how to get out,” he said.

He said it’s a cycle of violence that is the same in every relationship, starting with the “honeymoon phase.” Next, the victim will feel like he or she has to walk on egg shells. Then comes an argument where the aggressor will push or shove, followed by an explosion of anger and further violence. Finally, the aggressor will calm down and usually apologize, promising never to do it again, and the couple is back to the honeymoon phase.

Lisa Freedman, law clerk for the American Civil Liberties Union, also spoke last night about the effects Issue 1 has on domestic violence laws.

“Because under Issue 1, LGBT people aren’t recognized under the sanction of marriage, their domestic violence case will often be thrown out,” she said.

When this happens, the victim can file an assault charge, but the aggressor will receive a lesser charge. Freedman said many LGBT victims don’t do this anyway, because they are so upset about behind denied domestic violence rights.

She also discussed Ohio legislators’ who are working to rewrite domestic violence laws, so they will no longer be affected by Issue 1.

“Legislators have offered to make these laws stronger and extend it to roommates,” Freedman said. “All this does is dilute LGBT relationships and all other unmarried relationships.”

April Templeman, co-chair of QLF, said domestic violence is something that affects everyone and is an important issue people should pay attention to.

“We all know domestic violence occurs and it’s not spoken up about, especially in the LGBT community,” she said. “My hope is that this workshop will open up dialogue about it.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].