No one deserves to be abused! Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and involve verbal behavior used to coerce, threaten or humiliate. The purpose of the abuse is to maintain control and power over one's partner. The abused partner feels alone, isolated and afraid, and is usually convinced that the abuse is somehow his fault, or could have been avoided if he knew what to do.
Abuse includes but is not limited to:
Physical Abuse - hitting; choking; slapping; burning; shoving; using a weapon; physically restraining; intentional interference with basic needs (e.g. food, medicine, sleep)
Isolation: Restricting Freedom - controlling contacts with friends and family, access to information and participation in groups or organizations; locking up in a room / restricting mobility; monitoring telephone calls
Psychological & Emotional Abuse - constantly criticizing, ridiculing (self, family, friends, past); trying to humiliate or degrade; lying; undermining self-esteem; misleading someone about the norms and values of the gay/lesbian communities in order to control or exploit them
Stalking / Harassing Behavior - following; turning up at workplace or house; parking outside; repeated phone calls or mail to victim and/or family, friends, colleagues
Threats & Intimidation - threatening to harm partner, self or others (children, family, friends, pets); threatening to make reports to authorities that jeopardize child custody, immigration or legal status; threatening to disclose HIV status, threatening to reveal sexual orientation to family, friends, neighbors, and/or employers
Economic Abuse - controlling or stealing money; fostering dependency; making financial decisions without asking or telling partner Sexual Abuse/Harassment - forcing sex or specific acts, pressuring into unwanted sexual behavior, criticizing performance
Common Myths About Abuse in Gay Male Relationships:
Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships Versus Abuse in Opposite-Sex Relationships:
What is the Same:
What is Different:
Very limited services exist specifically for abused and abusive gay men.
Gay men often experience a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the abuse when reporting incidences of violence to a therapist, police officer or medical personnel.
Homophobia in society denies the reality of gay men's lives, including the existence of gay male relationships, let alone abusive ones. When abuse exists, attitudes often range from 'who cares' to 'these relationships are generally unstable or unhealthy.'
Shelters for abused women may not be sensitive to same-sex abuse (theoretically, shelters are open to all women and therefore, a same-sex victim may not feel safe as her abuser may also have access to the shelter). Abused gay men have even fewer places to turn for help in that there are no agency-sponsored safe places to stay.
In gay male relationships, there may be additional fears of losing the relationship which confirms one's sexual orientation; fears of not being believed about the abuse and fears of losing friends and support within the gay communities.
What To Do If You're Being Abused:
Recognize that you are not responsible for the abuse.
Recognize that violence/abuse is not likely to stop on its own - episodes of violence usually become more frequent and more severe.
It is important to break the silence. Try to tell someone who will believe you.
Seek professional help from a qualified counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse and is gay positive. A gay male counselor with the above qualities may help you address the pertinent issues of abuse with more comfort and focus.
Only you can decide what to do about your relationship - whether to stay or leave is your decision. However, it is important to develop a safety plan in case your safety is in jeopardy such as:
- a safe place to stay;
- emergency phone numbers;
- some money;
- your own bank account;
- post office box; and
- bag of essentials.
What To Do If You're Being Abusive:
Stop being abusive. Stop using abuse of any form (physical, sexual, verbal or emotional), including threats and intimidation.
Accept responsibility for your behavior. Remember that the use of violence in any form is always a choice that you make.
Do not make excuses for your violence or blame your partner for your abusive behavior.
Recognize that assaultive behavior is unacceptable and is a criminal act.
Seek professional help from a qualified counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse and is gay positive. A gay male counselor may help you address the pertinent issues of abuse with more comfort and focus.
Alcohol, drug use or mental health problems are not excuses for abusive behavior. Seek appropriate help for these problems.
How Can Friends/Relatives Help?
If someone discloses or you suspect that he is being abused, don't be afraid to privately express your concern and offer to help. Possible ways to help include locating resources, encouraging safety planning, respecting confidentiality and being there to listen. Believe their experience - don't minimize it. Don't give up or criticize them. If a friend doesn't leave an abusive partner, understand it is not easy. Let your friend know that you will be there regardless.
If someone you know is being abusive, tell them that violence and abuse are unacceptable. Encourage and support them in getting help to stop the violent behavior. Hold them accountable for their actions and the need to change.
What Gay Male Communities Can Do:
The gay male communities must begin to break down the silences and defensiveness around the issue of abuse in same-sex relationships. The more it is talked about the easier it will be for individuals to identify and change their own behavior and to expect relationships that are mutually respectful and free from fear and any form of abuse.
Get educated and help educate; work to include this issue in community papers and public forums.
Advocate for treatment and services on the part of medical, legal, police and social services that is equal, accessible and sensitive to the needs of people who are in abusive same-sex relationships.
How Professionals Can Help:
All professionals need to examine their own attitudes and feelings and how these have been influenced by homophobia and heterosexism.
Become aware of the silence and prevailing myths about partner abuse in lesbian and gay male relationships.
Do not assume with males that their partner is of the opposite sex.
Respect your client's anxieties about disclosure of sexual orientation, which may be based on real fears of discrimination and its effects on child custody, family support, job security, and/or deportation. Choices about disclosure of orientation and same-sex relationships are those of your clients and theirs alone.
It is important to impart acceptance of your client's sexual orientation.
Clients who have been abused by a same-sex partner may initially have issues of trust with a professional of the same sex.
Learn about and encourage the use of supportive social networks within and outside the gay male communities.
Getting Help for Domestic Violence Against Men:
Do not ignore or put up with domestic violence. If you or someone you know is the victim/survivor and needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 TYY
Web information is available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline http://www.ndvh.org/