By Kristen McCallum
Halloween might be over but I’m still haunted by the idea that people were dressing up as celebrity perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. This issue is one that is so real to many people on a daily basis and this mockery does nothing but create a deeper hole of humiliation for victims to sink into. Something’s gotta give…
Last month, HBO aired Private Violence, a documentary about domestic abuse in America. Of course, I was disappointed that the chosen representations were the usual white, heterosexual women. Since then I’ve really been trying to understand why I don’t see as much advocacy or engagement around domestic violence in the LGBTQ community. More specifically, why is this something that I rarely hear my fellow queer women discussing?
I know it does happen, as I was a victim and could relate deeply with the physical and emotional violence described by these straight women. The moment I found myself left out of the hardships described was when it came to getting help. I can’t even recall the amount of times I had to listen to authority figures mockingly address the situation (they’d been called to contain) as “close friends having a fight.” At a certain point it became more humiliating to ask for assistance than it was to wake up and look at the remnants of her rage. Sometimes, this is how you stay…and that was how I almost lost my life.
So I wonder a lot now about the women that are like I was two years ago. One is waking up every morning dreading the events that could lead to another “rough night” and contemplating her “only way out.” There’s another woman who is being mocked for making a “fight” with her partner a big deal because “they’re both women, that’s fair.” I feel quite selfish for having kept my experiences so tightly under wraps these past years. Now I feel that being a survivor of domestic violence puts me in a better seat to discuss where I felt my community fell short and how I feel my society continues to fail me. In a time where the act of exclusion seems so prevalent and acceptable, I think that dialogue around relationship abuse in the LGBTQ community is necessary. I can’t help but think that someone is doing a Google search for at least one other lesbian in the world who can relate to their struggle. Because you know what? I’ve done the search too.
I recently read a report published last month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) called Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2013. This data, being the most comprehensive of its kind, was quite shocking for me. I knew from personal experience that this type of violence occurs but definitely not to this extent. Now I’m even more empowered. Here are some of the findings so you can be too:
- For a second year in a row there were 21 Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) homicides of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people documented; the highest total recorded
- For the third year in a row, LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color made up the majority (50.2%) of intimate partner violence survivors
- LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color were more likely to report experiencing physical violence, discrimination, threats or intimidation, and harassment as a result of IPV
- LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color were also more likely to experience IPV incidents in public spaces
- LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence rarely go to the police, the courts or domestic violence shelters for support
“People of color make up the majority of LGBTQ survivors and are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence within relationships,” says Mary Case from the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “This is a national wakeup call. There is an obvious need to support programs and services that are focused on this group of intimate partner violence survivors—people of color who identify as LGBTQ and/or are affected by HIV.”
So now we figure out what to do with this information and what needs to happen to combat this type of violence in our homes — our supposed safe spaces. Sadly enough, we are trying to remain safe outside of our homes as well. The first step is shattering stigma. If it means that I have to put my silent nights on display for the sake of more survivors, that’s what I’m going to do. I love my community too much to watch it wither at the hands of violence that can and should be prevented.
For more information on Intimate Partner Violence, please visit avp.org.
Kristen McCallum is a poet and writer living in Washington Heights, NYC. Growing up in a Jamaican family has made coming out quite the journey. Determined to finally find her place in the QWOC community, Kristen feels new to all of this but it still feels like home. Find her on Twitter @krm_writes and at www.kristen-mccallum.com.