In the minds of many people, the phrase "domestic violence" automatically conjures up an image of a woman being battered by her husband. The truth is that domestic violence exists in many different permutations. For example, abuse is not necessarily physical. Emotional and psychological torment can affect a person just as seriously as being physically stuck.
Abusive relationships can also vary by the genders of the people involved. Sometimes men are abused by women, and sometimes violence occurs between gay couples. In fact, statistics suggest that abuse is just as common among gay and lesbian couples as in the heterosexual population. Gay survivors of abuse may face certain conflicts or have to agree with certain issues that are unique to their situation.
For example, the issue of abusive gay relations has not received the acknowledgment or attention as more "typical" abusive relationships. There is not much information or resources that specifically offer information and advice relevant to gay people, or to government officials, social workers or health care providers who may have gay clients. This lack of information in the wider community can create serious problems for a survivor who is trying to seek help. He or she may encounter police officers who do not take violence between two men or women seriously, shelter employees with personal biases against gay people, doctors who do not pay attention to signs of abuse in gay patients, and many other obstacles of this kind.
Another sad problem these survivors may experience is a lack of support within their own community. Some gay men and lesbians would prefer that the issue of domestic violence remain hidden, for fear of damaging the reputation of the gay community. These survivors may also be manipulated by threats to their personal reputations. If a person is not "out," their partner may control them by threatening to tell people about their relationship. This is especially a problem for younger victims of abuse, such as teenagers who are still living at home.
The good news is that many state laws about domestic violence are written to be gender neutral. For example, in most states a victim can get a restraining order against their abuser regardless of their genders or whether they are married. And many activists are working to spread information and raise people's awareness of this important issue. The situation for gay victims of abusive is very serious, but it is slowly improving.
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