Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Same Sex Domestic Violence on "Police Women of Memphis"

Trigger warning for graphic descriptions of domestic violence.  The video also contains disableist language.

Let me start out by saying unequivocally, that no one deserves to live in a violent situation. No one, no matter what the relationship, has the right to put their hands on you and cause you physical pain. 

Like many straight cisgender women writing about social justice, I often fall into a very predictable pattern, because I view the world through my specific lens of privilege.   This means that when I think about domestic violence, I picture the image of a man battering his defenseless wife; I immediately think of two cisgender people that are heterosexual.  I know and have known for a long time that violence does exist in same-sex relationships, and yet It never comes to mind unless it is  directly in front of me as it was in the following video.
(note I am placing this below the fold because of descriptions of violence).


Black Female Officer Speaking:  When I arrived at the scene, my fellow officer had the suspect handcuffed in the kitchen and I went to find the victim who was in the bedroom. 

Suspect:  You violating me.  Can I please see my boyfriend?

Officer:  We cannot let you see...we can't let you get close to him

Officer begins speaking to the camera: "The suspect, he is completely nuts.  He's telling us you know what I let you hand cuff me, cause I really should have gave you all a hard time.  So he is completely out of his mind"

The scene changes to the suspect being walked out by several male officers and he spits directly at the camera as he walks past saying, "bitch I told you."

Black Female Officer talking to camera again: It had to be the worst crime scene I've seen in a longtime.  The windows were broken out, glass was everywhere, blood splatter on the wall; it was a really terrible scene.

Black female officer speaking to the victim:  Okay Thomas, tell me what happened baby.

Thomas: Domestic violence stuff I guess you could say and this is the result the result (camera pans across destroyed room)  He came in and he was acting crazy, playing with that knife -- that serrated knife in there and actually just tore up our house. 

Black female officer:  That means  he is going to go to jail.  He's probably going to be there for awhile.

Thomas: That's fine (covers face and sobs) But uh acting crazy and uh when he got the knife, he cam in the room and started poking me.  Get up (He starts to make stabbing motions)

Black Female Officer to camera:  The victim had minor injuries from where his boyfriend had poked him several places with the knife. (camera begins to show Thomas revealing his injuries)

Thomas: He kept me in that room there (pointing to a bedroom). The phone is only in that room (pointing to another room).  So every time I would try to get up to get to the door or rise  up to call somebody, he would stick the knife up into me.  You know and I didn't want this, so I just tried to keep him (unintelligible)   Anyway so when I got him on the couch I just broke and ran for the door and that's when I locked the door.

Black female officer: okay

Thomas:  When I was on the phone, I was standing against the door and when I got up he broke the door off the hinge.

Black female officer to camera:  This situation is just like every other domestic abuse situation.  No one deserves to be abused.

Black female officer to Thomas: You got a lot of cleaning up to do but this right here is starting anew.  You're cleaning up a no good man in your life.  Clean up your space and you start over okay -- you start over.  Five years is  enough he could have hurt you.  No one holds you hostage and poke you in the you know.  That's violent you don't deserve that (Thomas covers his face and is clearly weeping) You have a beautiful personality.

Thomas: Thank you

Black female officer: A beautiful personality, you don't deserve it.  (Officer begins to speak to camera) In the end,  the suspect when to jail for aggravated assault. Thomas he had a destroyed apartment but I told him, cleaning up your place is just going to be like cleaning up your soul; cleaning up your relationship.  Throw this guy out with the broken glass. 
It is my privilege that has stopped from learning more about violence in the GLBT community, and so I am not really fit to write about this topic in any way shape or form.  What I will do is post some general information, that helped me to understand some of the dynamics, and a few numbers where people can reach out for help.  Please know that if you are being abused it is never your fault, only the abuser is to blame. And please seek a safe haven as quickly as you possibly can.
Common Myths About Abuse in Lesbian Relationships:
  • "Women are not abusive - only men are."
  • Anyone can choose to be abusive or not.
  • "Lesbians are always equal in relationships.  It is not abuse, it is a relationship struggle."
  • Two women in a relationship do not automatically guarantee equality.  Relationship struggles are never equal if abuse is involved.
  • "Abusive lesbians are more "butch," larger, apolitical or have social lives that revolve around the bar culture."
  • Abuse occurs regardless of race, class, religion, age, political affiliation, lifestyle, or physical attributes. 
  • "Lesbian violence is caused by drugs, alcohol, stress, childhood abuse."
  • While these factors can be important, they do not excuse the abuse.
  • "Lesbian abusers have been abused/oppressed by men are therefore not as responsible for what they do."
  • This is an excuse; abuse will only stop when responsibility is taken for the abuse.
  • "It is easier for a lesbian to leave her abusive partner that it is for a heterosexual woman to leave her abusive partner."
  • It is never easy to leave an abusive relationship.
 Common Myths About Abuse in Gay Male Relationships:
  • "Gay men are rarely victims of abuse by their partners."
  • Men can be and are abused.  This myth makes it particularly hard for men to come forward for help.
  • "When violence occurs between gay men in a relationship, it's a fight, it's normal, it's 'boys will be boys.'"
  • Using violence or 'taking it' is not normal; it is an unhealthy way to relate to others.
  • "Abuse in gay male relationships primarily involves apolitical gay men, or gay men who are part of the bar culture."
  • Abuse occurs regardless of race, class, religion, age, political affiliation or life style.
  • "Abuse in gay male relationships is sexual behavior: it's a version of sadomasochism and the victims actually like it."
  • In s/m there are mutually agreed upon verbal contracts between the involved parties.  No such contract exists between an abuser and his victim.*
  • "It is easier for a gay man to leave his abusive partner that it is for a heterosexual woman to leave her abusive partner."
  • It is never easy to leave an abusive relationship.
  • *This applies to lesbian relationships as well.
Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships Versus Abuse in Opposite-Sex Relationships:

What is the Same:
  • Abuse is always the responsibility of the abuser and is always a choice.
  • Victims are often blamed for the abuse by partners, and sometimes even family, friends and professionals can excuse or minimize the abusive behavior.
  • It is difficult for victims to leave abusive relationships.
  • Abuse is not an acceptable or healthy way to solve difficulties in relationships, regardless of orientation.
  • Victims feels responsible for their partner's violence and their partner's emotional state, hoping to prevent further violence.
  • Abuse usually worsens over time.
  • The abuser is often apologetic after abusing, giving false hope that the abuse will stop.
  • Some or all of the following effects of abuse may be present: shame, self-blame, physical injuries, short and long-term health problems, sleep disturbances, constantly on guard, social withdrawal, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness, shock, and dissociative states.

What is Different:
  • Very limited services exist specifically for abused and abusive lesbians and gay men.
  • Lesbians and 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 lesbian and gay men's lives, including the existence of lesbian and 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 lesbian and 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 lesbian/gay communities.

Community Resources in Metropolitan Toronto:
Assaulted Women's Helpline
(416) 863-0511 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 863-0511      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Free 24 hour hotline provides confidential crisis counseling, emotional support, information and referrals to assaulted or abused women.
The David Kelley Lesbian and Gay Community Counseling Program - Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto
(416) 595-9618 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 595-9618      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Day and evening hours, by appointment
355 Church St., Toronto, M5B 1Z8
Victim Assistance Program
(416) 392-6877 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 392-6877      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
519 Church St. Community Center
Provides support, information and advocacy for people who have experienced any hate motivated violence, based on sexual orientation or same-sex partner abuse
Two Spirited People of the First Nations
(416) 944-9300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 944-9300      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Has partner abuse program, by appointment
These agencies have expertise in same-sex partner abuse and can provide assistance and counseling.  They can also provide referrals to other agencies as needed e.g. addictions, counseling, child protection, medical and legal help.
This list of resources will change as new programs develop in the area of partner abuse.  Consumers and professionals alike can find current listings of services and therapists through directories (such as The Rainbow Book, which can be purchased at the 519 Church St. Community Center) and through these phone lines:
TAGL (Toronto Area Gays and Lesbians) (416) 964-6600 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 964-6600      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Lesbian/Gay/Bi Youth Line (416) 962-9688 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (416) 962-9688      

   United states.

Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: 323-860-5806 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              323-860-5806      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Email: [email protected]
One of the most far-reaching elements of the wide range of services provided by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center is the court-approved batterer treatment program for gay and lesbian abusers. The program employs an impressive 52-week curriculum, designed to address the abuse perpetrated by the batterer in treatment, as well as the societal violence and negative mainstream messages that have affected the LGBT community.
The Network/La Red
PO Box 6011
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-695-0877 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              617-695-0877      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 617-423-5651
Email: [email protected]
The Network was formed to address domestic violence in lesbian and bisexual women’s communities in Boston. Since its beginning, has become a national resource and model for battered women’s programs, batterer’s intervention programs, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender organizations.
The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
PO Box 20398
Seattle, WA 98102
Phone: (206) 568.7777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (206) 568.7777      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
TTY: (206) 517.9670 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (206) 517.9670      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Email: [email protected]
The Northwest Network acts to increase its communities' ability to support the self-determination and safety of bisexual, transgendered, lesbian, and gay survivors of abuse through education, organizing and advocacy. Services include support groups, individual counseling, legal advocacy, shelter referrals, safety planning, basic needs assistance, community education and community organizing. While staff at the Network do not do direct intervention work with perpetrators of domestic violence, they may be able to connect you with individuals in their community who are doing that work.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
240 west 34th Street, Ste. 200
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-714-1184 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              212-714-1184      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
NCAVP is a coalition of over 20 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victim advocacy and documentation programs located throughout the United States. They may be able to direct you to a number of member programs who are working with batterers as well as survivors.
Kansas City Anti-Violence Project
P.O. Box 411211
Kansas City, MO 64141-1211
816-561-0550 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              816-561-0550      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Email: [email protected]
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project serves western Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa providing domestic violence, sexual assault, and bias crimes advocacy and education to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project
he Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project is a grassroots, non-profit organization founded by a GLBTQ survivor of domestic violence and developed through the strength, contributions and participation of the community.
Misson Statement: The Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project supports victims and survivors through education, advocacy and direct services. Understanding that the serious public health issue of domestic violence is not gender specific. We have a safe home, direct services, educational training and much more.
24-Hour Hotline: 1-800-832-1901 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-832-1901