Monday, May 11, 2009

The Courage to Leave

via the Advocate, by Dr. Frank Spinelli

Domestic violence isn’t something that happens only to straight people

During his physical exam, Troy, a clinical psychologist and a patient of mine for nearly nine years, confided that his partner had been abusing him for two years. My first thought was to blurt out, “Rihanna, what were you thinking?” A psychologist should know better! Instead I shut my big mouth and listened. As obvious as the right course of action -- to get out quickly -- seems, I can’t presume to know how any of us would react in a similar situation. Domestic violence occurs in one in four same-sex relationships, but fewer than one third of cases are ever reported. Victims fear insensitivity from the police, and men especially feel emasculated by needing to seek help regarding physical or emotional abuse. In Troy’s case the abuse started after he lost his job: “My boyfriend always made more money than me, and after I was laid off, he joked about it front of our friends.” As is often the case in relationships, that emotional abuse led to physical abuse.

A violent childhood, substance abuse, mental illness, stress, and economic dissatisfaction can all lead people to take extreme actions against their partners. But the bottom line is that no one deserves abuse. Victims need to first accept that no action warrants that kind of rage; then they need to tell a trusted friend, family member, or doctor that they need help. There are resources available. The Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project hotline is (800) 832-1901, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-7233.

[*** Also, please check out the Center on Halsted's Anti-Violence Project resources. Since it's inception in 1988, The Anti-Violence Project has provided crisis counseling, information and referrals, and legal advocacy to thousands of survivors of violence and discrimination. The Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project is a founding member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a coalition of more than 40 individual programs across the nation that document and advocate for survivors of LGBT discrimination, hate violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct, and other forms of victimization.]

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