MAY | 2018 | LOVE & RELATIONSHIPS
The Beaten Path
Some topics aren’t so fun to talk about. Domestic abuse or intimate partner violence is one of them. We’re choosing to tackle this subject as part of our Social Issue Issue, and believe us when we say it hasn’t been fun.
Many of us get caught up in the fanfare of being in a relationship and we sometimes forget to think about everything that can occur while we’re actually in the relationship. A lot of us can account for how we’ll handle inquiries about threesomes, sexually transmitted infections and infidelity, but very few of us consider how we’ll deal with the possibility of intimate partner abuse.
Regardless of whether you prefer the term domestic abuse or intimate partner violence, it is as common as it is uncommonly discussed. The first thing that many of us visualize in our thoughts of domestic abuse is a female identified victim being physically assaulted by a male partner. Stereotypes like this have an extreme impact on how domestic abuse cases are perceived by those outside of the SGL community
The general consensus seems to be that it should be easier for us to deal with our partners in situations like these because we’re both men. Police often find themselves confused when called to assist with domestic disputes between SGL couples because to them it's simple math, he hits you, you hit his ass back. But it’s not always that easy.
There are multiple challenges that have to be addressed when it comes to SGL intimate partner violence. The first of which is competency. There are often feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse after calling the police because the victim, in many cases, has to worry about not only being in the situation itself but being revictimized as a result of homophobia, racism and yes, even sexism.
Can you imagine how it would feel to call the police for help only to find yourself being treated as less than by them? Believe it or not, it happens as a lot of police and other service organizations don’t always take complaints as seriously as they would if the complainant were a female who had been assaulted by a man. All of this is to say that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done because the last thing anyone in that situation needs to experience is being revictimized.
Another challenge that the victim of this particular trauma is faced with is not only whether or not he should leave, but how. The notion of doing so is quite simple for those of us existing outside of the situation but it's rarely ever that easy for the victim. There are some things to consider such as whether or not the victim has the resources to leave and their ability to afford to do so. Moving is expensive, and not everyone is able to just up and go as they please when they please.
Speaking of moving, having another place to go is equally as important. There are plenty of situations where victims don’t have a place to go after being the victim of domestic abuse, and there aren’t many shelters for battered men. There is a social component to this as well. Can you imagine having to ask your family and friends for a place to crash after Brian, the love of your life, has demonstrated that he can’t keep his hands to himself? The embarrassment alone is the main reason that people don’t talk about domestic abuse, or ask their friends and family for help when it happens.
The next, seemingly logical, question that many ask is why stay? Again, given what we’ve just covered, we know that leaving is easier said than done, but there is also a thought that the victim can work on the relationship to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. This almost never works but given the psychological depth of the situation, it happens more times than any of us could ever imagine.
So what is our role, then, as the friend of someone experiencing intimate partner violence? What can we do? What should we say and how involved should we be? The last part of that is pretty tricky so we’ll start at the beginning.
The first thing you can do is to be supportive. Support can be shown in many different ways and it doesn’t always have to be vocal, because sometimes people say fucked up things in their attempt to show concern. You don’t want to ask the victim what it was they said or did that lead to the incident happening. What you can do is to let them tell you while asking as few questions as possible.
Another thing we can do to offer support is to hold space for the victim. Extra bedrooms, couches, futons and even a pallet on the floor can serve as the shelter people need in these situations. The most important thing here is to make sure that the victim is in a place where he feels safe.
Now for the hardest part of all, which is deciding on how involved you should be. There are a few instances to examine here as we need to consider when we need to act and how. We should act the moment that we notice something. This doesn’t mean that we should do anything brash, but a simple ‘are you okay?’ or ‘what’s going on?’ works fine.
In doing this we should realize that we won’t always be given the truth because victims are often embarrassed which keeps them from seeking help. However, simply asking the question lets them know that you’ve noticed something and that you’re present. There’s also the possibility that you might be told to mind your own business, and might result in them pulling back from you. But don’t worry, because they’ll still know that you’re present and concerned.
Other things we can consider doing are to ensure that we’re in constant contact with them and to check on them if we haven’t seen or heard from them in a substantial amount of time. In the event that we do find ourselves involved we have to let our friends know what we can and cannot do for them, because none of us can do it all. A lot of people struggle with whether or not they should involve themselves in their friend’s relationships, but its almost always a good idea because none of us can ever be sure as to how out of control the situation will get.
Some of you reading this have probably seen your friends of family members experience domestic abuse, and such, we can already tell what you really want to know, which is what the hell are you supposed to do when he goes back? We’ve got to be prepared for multiple returns as the average number of times it takes for a victim to finally make the separation permanent is seven. But how should we deal with this? Patience.
It's going to take a lot of patience to deal with this, which is why a lot of people don’t get involved. Why waste time becoming involved if when you know they’re just going to go back to their trash ass partners? As offensive as it may be, it's a valid question, and the best advice that we can give is to set boundaries without setting up barriers. Victims often find themselves without much support after going back to their abusive partners, but if you can endure their decision and continue to offer as much support as you can, we suggest that you do.
We’ve put a lot of energy into the discussion about how you can help your friends but not a lot on what you can do for you. Let’s rectify that.
While we absolutely love the idea of love we hate the idea of blindly jumping into relationships. Our first suggestion is that you don’t lock it down until you’ve seen him mad, because that will tell you a lot. The decision is ultimately yours, but if you’re involved with a Beaux who goes from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk, get out. If you observe him treating wait staff and service providers like trash, he’s trash. Get out. If your Beaux shows signs of jealousy, being possessive, constantly puts you down or jokingly threats to knock you out, be advised that he’s showing you exactly who you’ll be dealing with after his representative takes his leave.
In the event that you ever find yourself defending your partner’s actions towards you with excuses such as, “he didn’t mean it”, “he’s not always this way’, “it's only happened (once, or) a couple of times”, or commence to blaming yourself, seek help because you are in danger. Again, the decision is ultimately yours. Our hope is that this piece has not only given you some advice on how to help (not save) your friends who may be the victims of intimate partner violence but to make you, the reader, of the options you have as well.
We truly, truly care for each and every last one of you and have provided a link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a resource you may use in the event that you or someone you know are currently, or have been the victim of domestic or intimate partner abuse. It is not your fault, and help is only a few clicks away.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline