Domestic violence an unsolved problem for all sexual orientations

Leia Karimul Bashar

Many people believe that domestic violence is a bigger problem in heterosexual relationships than homosexual ones, but about one in four relationships is affected by domestic violence at some point, regardless of sexual orientation, according to information from the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.

Danielle Steger, outreach and education associate for KCAVP, spoke out against domestic violence in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Thursday night in the Henderson Learning Center. KCAVP works with LGBT victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and hate crimes in Kansas and Missouri to provide victims with emergency assistance, and court, medical and police advocacy.

Steger delved into the unique problems faced by people in LGBT relationships. She said simply going to a shelter for domestic violence can spark problems for LGBT people.

“If you are a female in a same-sex relationship going into a shelter, and all of the females around you are talking about ‘my man did this to me’ or ‘my man did that to me,’ would you feel comfortable saying that your abuser was a female?” said Steger. “Also, you have to continuously come out as being L, G, B or T. Everybody you tell you’re story to, every time you tell you’re story, you’re constantly coming out of the closet.”

Furthermore, Steger said, there are no legal routes to dissolving LGBT relationships.

“Since there is no gay marriage, there is no gay divorce,” said Steger. “And the LGBT community is small. It’s hard to avoid the abuser. I know a lot of you have been to the one gay bar here in Topeka. You see the same people over and over again. If you break up with someone, you’re going to see your ex. So if you’re ex was your abuser, chances are you’re going to see your abuser whenever you go out.”

Steger listed several ways abusers manipulate their partners. For instance, she said children are often used as emotional blackmail to threaten a person who wants out of a relationship.

“If you are in a same-sex relationship and one of the parents is the biological parent, they can say, ‘Well, if you leave me, you’re never going to see our child again,’ and they can legally do so,” said Steger.

She said HIV-related abuse is another problem often unique to LGBT couples.

“We worked with a client whose partner was stealing his HIV medication,” said Steger. “So he kept getting sicker and sicker throughout the relationship, and it got to the point where his partner wouldn’t even let him go to his doctor appointments. By the time he finally got to us, he was pretty sick.”

Steger then discussed several myths heterosexual people frequently believe regarding domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples. For instance, a common myth is that women can only be battered by men because it is a “fair fight” if both people belong to the same gender.

“Again, what is the definition of domestic violence?” said Steger. “It is a pattern of behaviors used by one person to exert and maintain power and control over another person. So that is a difference between healthy relationships and abusive relationships.”

In all, about 20 people, many of them social workers, attended Thursday night’s meeting to learn how to better handle domestic violence issues among LGBT couples.

Resa Boydston is the Secretary Treasurer of OPEN, a student organization at Washburn that promotes tolerance and understanding of sexual diversity. She said she was glad she attended the meeting, saying it was an eye-opener to learn about some of the abuses suffered by LGBT people.

“The story about the person with HIV, whose partner was keeping their medicine from them, that was just offensive,” said Boydston.