“My partner tied me to a chair and left me there all day. He told me that he had to because he couldn’t trust me if he didn’t know where I was. I don’t think the scars on my hands will ever fade.”
“My partner never hits me. She just keeps calling me names, tells me I’m fat and accuses me of sleeping with everyone. Sometimes she does things that I know aren’t right like checking my email and stuff. But I know that she loves me, even if she doesn’t show it all the time. And love is supposed to be intense like this, right?”
“I haven’t talked to my family is almost a year because my partner doesn’t like them. I also don’t talk to some of my old friends because my partner doesn’t trust them. My partner says that I shouldn’t talk to anyone outside of our relationship about our private problems. But sometimes my partner IS the problem.”
We hear these and hundreds of other similar stories every year across Minnesota. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, religion, and other identities, intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in approximately one in four relationships. LGBTQ communities are not immune. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner. IPV can vary in frequency and severity occurs as a continuum of behaviors that are in no way limited to physical abuse. IPV is a pattern of coercive behaviors that use various forms of power to control a survivor’s life, choices and options.
Unfortunately, LGBTQ people are some of the least likely survivors to report their experiences to law enforcement and other systems professionals. Reporting IPV may come with some pretty high costs. People may be forced to come out. Abusers may tell their survivors that no one will believe them or that they will have to educate people they reach out to for safety and support. Another extremely effective weapon often used by abusers is telling survivors that saying anything about the violence will harm our entire communities, especially now with the harsh and divisive political spotlight shining so brightly on us right now.
While IPV can cause a range of physical injuries, it can also create deep and hidden internal scars. Fear, low self esteem, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, decreased trust, anger and grief (just to name a few trauma responses) can lead to increased depression and anxiety. Survivors are often silenced by fear, shame, guilt, self-blame and myriad other issues with the result being that they do not or cannot reach out for services and support. Alone and without the necessary emotional, social and financial resources to move on, survivors are forced to stay with their abusers. And unfortunately, within our own communities, our most common response continues to be the silencing of survivors that do speak out about their experiences.
IPV is entirely and completely preventable.
OutFront Minnesota’s Anti-Violence Program is working to help create safe lives and safe communities. This October, we are marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month by partnering with True Colors Bookstore in Minneapolis to do our first ever book drive to support LGBTQ families as they seek safety in domestic violence programs across the state. We want even the youngest people in our LGBTQ communities to see their families reflected in the materials provided by DV programs and will be sending at least two children’s books to each DV/IPV program in Minnesota.
True Colors Bookstore had generously offered a 10% discount on their children’s books during the book drive. In keeping with their deep commitment to the LGBTQ communities, they also hosted a reception on October 19 benefitting the Anti-Violence Program. It is only with the help of these community partners that we can work to support survivors and ultimately end intimate partner violence.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, there is help available. In addition to our community education and outreach, we have a crisis support line, individual counseling and advocacy services available free of charge throughout Minnesota. Call us at 612-822-0127 option 3 or 1-800-800-0350 option 3. You are not alone and what you are experiencing is not your fault.