Sunday, November 1, 2015

Removing The Mask of Domestic Violence

On Halloween I attended the Legacy Awards & Gospel Concert "Removing The Mask of Domestic Violence," and it really hit home home for me. The night was filled with music, love and stories of survival. I have had a lot to happen to me in the last ten years, like so many of you and when I heard this one story of triumph I had a flashback to a tragedy that I rarely talk about. The story of Triumph came from Porsha Daniels as she gave her testimony of survival, she sat on the stage wheelchair bound and detailed the day of her ordeal. She said that she was at home with the new guy that she was dating (he was in another room) as her ex boyfriend broke into a window and viciously stabbed her, tried to decapitate her (I will not go into any further details). She could not move as she witnessed her new boyfriend get murdered, she survived the attempt on her life, had 14 surgeries, and extensive therapy. She was told that she would never walk again by the very people giving her medical attention, the whole time I sat in tears. Not the kind of tears that stream, the kind that don't fall, makes your heart race and your hands tremble.

The tears were for her pain, and when they finally began to fall onto my cheeks, she talked about defying the talk that she would never walk again. She stood up, she stood up without help, without fear and she had this strength in her eyes that I remember from a woman in my life who reminded me of her. You see, many women do not make it out alive, tell their story and walk away with their heads held high. In 2005 I was dealing with my own life issues, but my God Sister was dealing with a set of problems that I had not been aware of. I won't name her out of respect for privacy but I will call her J, and I loved her without limit. J had been dating this guy for a little bit before he became abusive (to the extent I don't know) to her and somehow, some way she left him alone and move to an apartment just outside of New Orleans in hopes that she can begin a new life. He found her, and killed her with the gun she bought to protect herself. These details only came after funeral, many of us just didn't know what J was going through. The thing about the son of a bitch who did it that stuck out to me the most, He told my Godmother "I'm going to take your baby away from you."

Abusers don't just hurt and taunt their lovers, they do it to the family the wants to protect their loved ones from being abused. I still think about J and her smile, how she would always take care of those she loved. Even when she got married and went away with her husband to the military, subsequently divorced him and remained friends with him, she was never mean and J you will always be with me in my heart. There are victims of domestic violence like my sister J and Porsha, men and women who experience these life or death situations. Many of these situations, whether they are are heterosexual or homosexual in nature, extend to not just physical/mental violence, they affect the health of the parties involved. Many abusers bring home STD/STIs, one that comes to mind is HIV and how it plays a major role in domestic violence. Another is depression, and how it can cripple recovery once the abused party leaves the relationship. We as a society need to be more aware and careful to notice the signs of when our friends and family may be experiencing domestic violence. We also need to stop keeping it a secret, expose the truths that hurt us.

We also need to recognize that domestic violence does not discriminate sexual orientation or gender identity. In recognizing that fact, we must be honest and acknowledge that many Black same sex couples have incidences of domestic violence. When we narrow it down to men, what man will admit to his partner beating or verbally abusing him? Sean Smith put it best when he wrote:

"The mere fact that I continue to come across my LGBTQ identified brothers and sisters who have been victims of domestic violence sends the signal that we are more interested in adopting the patriarchal principles of hetero-normative society, as opposed to interacting with our partners and those within our community in a healthy and peaceful manner. The anger and violence within us which we feel we must impose on another human being is not the result of socially learned behavior, but an internal conflict which we refuse to acknowledge due to many poisonous messages which are disseminated within our culture. People of color are expected to stay silent in the face of violence and as part of the LGBTQ community the silence becomes louder when law-enforcement, judicial and political figures ignore our calls for help. Not having power over our own behaviors and emotions causes us to exert dominating and violent attitudes within our community and toward our partners."

According to the CDC2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey which gives an overview of findings on victimization by sexual orientation:

Domestic violence in the Transgender community is one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed as many Trans men and women are facing many societal forces of discrimination. One could imagine the personal despair many of our brothers and sisters face when dealing with domestic violence.  According to the Transgender Law Center, "The numbers are likely much higher for transgender people. Transgender survivors of domestic violence often choose not to report the abuse due to a number of factors, including a fear of compromising the privacy and safety interests if one is “outed,” denying access to medical treatment or hormones, or endangering one’s legal status if they are an undocumented immigrant, and a fear of the institutionalized transphobia within law enforcement and the judicial system. Other abusive tactics used against transgender people include using non-preferred pronouns, eroticizing or fetishizing body parts, telling transgender people that no one else will ever love them, and threatening to take their children.

There are many examples of law enforcement failing to arrest or prosecute offenders after discovering the victim is transgender which have been documented by Transgender Law Center and other organizations working on domestic violence/intimate partner issues. This has led to mistrust in the trans community to report incidences of domestic violence to the police. As Aaron Eckhart explains, “To really address the needs of transgender survivors, we need to address transphobic laws, policies and institutions while also providing supportive programs that address transgender people explicitly and that engage transgender survivors in preventing this violence.” This includes education and dispelling myths that women cannot be abusers, that men cannot be abused, and that the dynamics of domestic violence in a relationship involving a transgender individual is exactly identical to the dynamics of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships. Other than community education, institutions such as law enforcement, courts, and hospitals should also receive LGBTQ-specific training on screening, assessment and intake.

In 2012 the National Coalition Of Anti-violence Programs (NCAVP) released a Report On Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, And HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence and released it in 2013. Look who made an appearance:

I do sincerely hope this post helps someone and that those affected by domestic violence find a place of peace.


Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse

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