Violence in same-sex/gender relationships, is often ignored, minimized or misunderstood by families, friends, communities and service providers, but it is a reality.
You might identify yourself as lesbian, queer, dyke, bi-sexual, gay, trans, two-spirited, or you might not use any of these terms to describe yourself. Violence in relationships can take many forms and some examples of abusive behaviours can include:
- tells you that they love & support you, but constantly puts you down. You feel crazy.
- keeps you from seeing friends or family. Not allowing you to be involved in LGBTQ communities
- threatens to ‘out’ you or have you deported
- says you’re confused because you identify as bisexual
- denies or makes fun of your gender identity
- insults your racial, ethnic, religious &/or class background
- is extremely jealous & possessive, accuses you of cheating
- threatens, hits, slaps, shoves, punches, chokes, uses weapons or restrains you against your will
- forces you to drink or take drugs
- has yelling rages, constant screaming, humiliation, verbal attacks
- forces you to have sex or unprotected sex; sexually assaults you; criticizes and makes you feel uncomfortable during sex; forces sexual acts that deny/assault your trans/intersex identities
- destroys your personal belongings, throwing objects, controlling finances, creating debt
- threatens to harm you, your children, your pets
- stalks you, terrorizes you, constantly interrupts your sleep
- doesn’t respect your boundaries & ignores your safe words in your s/m relationship
- keeps promising to change but the abuse happens again
You may experience some, many or all of these different abusive behaviours. You may have experienced something not included in this list.
Sometimes abuse occurs in a predictable pattern; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the abuse gets worse over time. Sometimes the dynamics remain constant. Things can feel confusing if your partner is constantly blaming you and telling you that you are abusive, when that doesn’t seem true to you. The dynamics can feel very confusing if both of you are physically fighting and if you are fairly evenly matched. Physical fighting can include defending yourself and/or intentionally attempting to hurt your partner. In many situations, one person will be more controlling and direct abusive actions towards their partner. Sometimes the dynamics can change where a person who was being abused gains the upper hand and becomes abusive to their partner. In some relationships, one person may be more physically abusive and the other is more emotionally or verbally abusive. If you are both emotionally abusive, you may feel stuck in an ugly pattern where you are constantly hurting and triggering each other. In some situations a person who was abused in one relationship goes on to be abusive in another relationship, or visa versa. All of these situations are abusive.
What can I do if I think I’m being abused?
Conflict and abuse can feel confusing when its happening. Ask yourself:
- Am I being physically, sexually, emotionally abused, controlled or threatened?
- Am I anxious and stressed about how my partner treats me?
- Do I feel isolated, afraid or hopeless?
If you said ‘yes’ to any of these, it’s important to get some perspective about what’s happening.
- Try to find at least one person you can talk to about what is going on – a friend, family member, or counsellor. This may give you perspective, and help you make decisions about what to do. Remember that the abuse is not your fault.
- Making the decision about staying or leaving may feel difficult. You may not want to leave or feel you can’t. Or leaving the situation temporarily or permanently may be options. While deciding what to do, ask yourself what you can do to feel safer and have more options such as: connecting with others and reducing your isolation, increasing your financial independence, and setting stronger boundaries and limits with your partner.
- You might want to make a plan for leaving and work towards that over time doing some of the things suggested above.
- Create a safety plan to reduce the risks or harm. Think about what you (and your children) need to be as safe as possible – while in the relationship or if you leave.
- Put emergency money, keys and important documents in a safe place (with a friend or neighbour) in case you need to leave quickly.
- If you decide to leave, find a place where you can feel safe and your partner will not find you (family or friend’s home, shelter/transition house). LGBT people face numerous challenges in accessing safe housing/shelter. This may be especially true for gay men & trans people who have even fewer options.
- Try to vary your routine so your partner won’t find you. Because LGBT communities are small you may run into your partner at social events. If you end up in situations together try to set boundaries for yourself and look to friends and family for support.
- If you are in immediate danger, call the police. Remember, physical and sexual assault are against the law. You have legal rights to protection. If these rights are ignored by the police find an advocate to help get what you need.
What can I do if I think I am being abusive?
- Am I threatening my partner?
- Am I trying to control my partner, keeping them to myself?
- Am I always finding fault with my partner or trying to punish her/him?
- Am I trying to punish or blame my partner for my actions?
- Am I constantly lashing out at them?
- Do I feel like hurting my partner or myself?
Answering yes to any of these means it’s time to think about your actions, take responsibility and stop hurting your partner. Even if your actions are not intentional they can still cause harm and there is no excuse for them, even if your partner or someone else has abused you. Do not blame your partner, instead, stop your behaviours. Leave the situation or relationship if necessary to keep your partner and/or yourself safe. Call on friends, family and/or a counsellor to help you change your behaviours.