A Two Part Series: Addressing IPV and Sexual Violence in the LGBTQIA Community
As LGBTQIA allies and advocates for survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we wanted to bring to our readers a two-part blog series highlighting the LGBTQIA community. At the national level, awareness about intimate partner violence has traditionally focused on heterosexual norms and relationships. As more research becomes available, society has learned that the LGBTQIA community is affected by intimate partner violence equally, if not more, than heterosexual cis-gendered couples. Intimate partner violence within the LGBTQIA community is vastly underreported, not acknowledged, or reported as something else rather than domestic violence. Due to past trauma and stigma, LGBTQIA survivors are less likely to seek help and resources regarding intimate partner violence.
Power and Control
There are several tactics a perpetrator of abuse may use such as intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, denying/minimizing/blaming, using children, using privilege, economic abuse, and using coercion/threats (See below image for the Power and Control Wheel, provided by the National Domestic Violence Hotline). When looking at these different forms of power and control for someone of the LGBTQIA community, the use of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia is prevalent. For example, a perpetrator of abuse may isolate the victim/survivor by saying “No one else will love you because of your sexual orientation/gender identity” or “If you leave me you will never see our children again, because of your sexual orientation/gender identity”. Additionally, in smaller communities (like ours) this can also be a form of control as the perpetrator could use neighbors and other members of the community to keep track of the victim/survivor’s movement or whereabouts.
While the tactics of power and control used by perpetrators of abuse remain comparable to those of heterosexual relationships, some additional and unique forms may be used. One such form of power and control a perpetrator may use is threatening to “out” the victim/survivor’s sexual orientation/gender identity to their workplace, family, friends, or community members (National Resource Center on Domestic Violence NCADV, 2018). Another form of power and control for someone who is transgender is when the abusive partner uses inappropriate pronouns, referring to the victim/survivor as “it” rather than their preferred pronoun (NCADV, 2018). The abusive partner may ridicule the transgender partner’s body or identity or tell the transgender partner that they are not a “real” man or woman (NCADV, 2018).
The LGBTQIA community faces additional barriers regarding intimate partner violence, preventing members to seek services, which include (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2020):
What can you do if someone you care about is a victim/survivor of intimate partner violence (The NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse, 2013)?
Family Crisis Resource Center, Inc. officially began in 1978 under the name Women’s Refuge, Inc.. as part of the grass roots efforts addressing domestic violence. Women’s Refuge focused on providing assistance to and shelter for women who were unable to or unwilling to remain in the family residence due to intimate partner violence. The Women’s Refuge noticed very quickly a frequent history of sexual victimization among the women they served. A realization also occurred that children of these women had a need for support services, too. Women’s Refuge expanded to provide intervention and supportive counseling for sexual victimization and counseling services for children.
As the years passed and needs of the service population became more apparent, Women’s Refuge continued expanding. A home was purchased to provide a shelter, rather than sheltering women and their children in hotels. Separate office space was rented to provide counseling and advocacy services for women not residing in the shelter but still in need of assistance. Services grew to include individual counseling for child victims of incest, children who witnessed domestic violence, rape survivors, adult survivors of incest, and teen dating violence victims. Secondary victims, friends and family members of victims, also became eligible for supportive services. Because Women’s Refuge expanded services to the whole family and focused on family health, the name was officially changed to Family Crisis Resource Center, Inc. (FCRC).
Realizing a need for intervention programs to support ending violence in the community, the Abuse Intervention Program was implemented as a group program for perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Supervised Visitation was also implemented to provide a safe, secure environment for children to visit non-custodial parents in families experiencing domestic and sexual violence.
In 2000, with Allegany County and City of Cumberland Government support, FCRC built our current location ; a co-located shelter and office to address the increasing demand for services, decrease barriers to accessing these services, and provide more seamless administration. and decreased barriers to accessing services. FCRC also expanded services to include male victims, limited English proficiency survivors, and the LGBTQ population. Efforts were made to incorporate men as allies and inform the community that sexual and intimate partner crimes impact everyone, not just women. FCRC also increased its focus on prevention of intimate partner violence and crimes by expanding community education to include prevention workshops with young people and social media awareness. Around 2010, FCRC’s advocacy and support services, with the exception of the shelter, shifted to outreach. While some supportive services still occur in the building, many of the advocates are at various locations (colleges, schools, YMCA, the library, etc.) in the county bringing services and education to the community.
Increasingly, FCRC is involved in collaborative efforts with other agencies in the area to more effectively address domestic and sexual crimes. FCRC participates in the Sexual Assault Response Team, Allegany County Family Violence Council, Child Abuse Task Force, Multidisciplinary Team, Fatality Review Team, Allegany County Health Planning Coalition, Continuum of Care, and many other collaborative efforts.
Without the strong leadership of the women who began the movement in 1978 and the solid community partnerships, victims and survivors in Allegany County would not have access to the resources provided by FCRC today.
*We would like to acknowledge long time board member Betsey Hurwitz-Schwab for her work in gathering our historical content and guiding this blog post. THANK YOU!