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Support Line

Emotional Support | Referrals | Advocacy

Victim advocates are available to answer your call during Support Line hours:

Monday - Thursday 10am-6pm
Friday 10am-2pm

local: 802-863-0003
toll free: 866-869-7341

Education and Outreach

To request a workshop for your organization or entity, please complete this form.

More coming soon!

Report It

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Report discrimination, hate violence, sexual violence intimate partner and domestic violence anonymously.

SafeSpace Blog

OUR MISSION 

SafeSpace is a social change and social service program working to end physical, sexual, and emotional violence in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) people. We provide information, support, referrals, and advocacy to LGBTQH survivors of violence and offer education and outreach programs in the wider community.

SafeSpace Services

SAFESPACE SERVICES

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Have you ever been harmed or put down by a partner, lover, family member or employer?

Have you ever felt unsafe at home or at work?

Have you ever been forced to have sex or do things you don't want to do sexually? 

No one deserves to have this happen to them.  You do not have to go through this alone.  SafeSpace offers free and confidential services to LGBTQ+ survivors of all forms of abuse or violence.  You will find the support you are looking for at SafeSpace.

OUR SERVICES

SAFESPACE SUPPORT LINE

We provide emotional support, referrals, and advocacy to LGBTQH survivors of violence.
  • local: 802-863-0003
  • toll free: 866-869-7341
Victim advocates are available to answer your call during Support Line hours:
  • Monday through Thursday 9am-6pm and Friday 9am-2pm

DIRECT ADVOCACY

Victim advocates are available to meet with you at the SafeSpace office, accompany you to court, the hospital, the police, or other agencies and to assist you in obtaining the services you need. Victim advocates also provide one on one support which may include safety planning, education, referrals, as well as emotional support.

SUPPORT GROUP

SafeSpace offers support groups for survivors. These groups give survivors a safe and supportive environment to tell their stories, share information, and offer and receive support. Support groups also provide survivors an opportunity to gain information on how to better cope with feelings and experiences that surface because of the trauma they have experienced. Please call if you are interested in joining a group.

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH PROGRAMS

We provide informational programs for the purpose of educating people about language, inclusivity, and interupting bias. All workshops can be potentially taylored by request to fit the specific needs of an organization. To submit a workshop or training request, please complete this form.

Sexual Violence

SEXUAL VIOLENCE — RAPE & SEXUAL ASSUALT


If you are in immediate danger, or in need of medical attention please call 911, or go to an SSLogoemergency room.

The 24 hour Sexual Violence hotline number is (800) 489-7273.

Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of their sex, gender, race, class, age, size, appearance, or sexual orientation. They are violent crimes used to exert power, humiliate, and control.
  • "Sex" requires your consent.
  • "Rape" and "Sexual Assault" are violent crimes that are motivated by anger, hatred, and aggression. Being forced to have unprotected sex or to engage in more sexual activity than you had wanted also constitutes rape or sexual assault. People of all genders can commit sexual assault.
  • No one asks to be raped. Even if you picked someone up or were already engaged in sexual activity, you always have the right to say no.
  • If you could not say no because you were drunk, high, or unconscious, it is still considered rape or sexual assault. If you were not able to say no because of a disability, it is still considered rape or sexual assault. If you had your boundaries violated in a “scene” or your “safe words” were not respected, it is still considered rape or sexual assault. If are a sex worker and someone forced you to do something you did not agree to, it is still considered rape or sexual assault.
Sexual violence can happen in the context of intimate partner violence or as part of anti-LGBTQ+ hate violence.
  • Often batterers will use sexual violence as a tool to maintain power and control in a relationship where domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence) exists. This can be in the form of sexual assault or rape including, attacking a survivor’s genitals, touching parts of the survivor’s body which are off limits, denying sexual activity or shaming the survivor about their sexuality. This is a very powerful tool of abuse and is usually used in conjunctions with other forms of intimate partner abuse. For more information, please see the section on domestic violence.
  • Sexual assault or rape can also be part of an anti-LGBTQQ hate violence attack. Many times people who are choosing targets based on perceptions about sexual orientation or gender identity will take out their hatred by attacking our sexuality in this most direct manner. As sexual violence is about power and control, and LGBTQQ people are often sexually assaulted or raped in the name of attempting to turn someone straight or put them in their place regarding their gender.
  • If you are a survivor of sexual violence remember, it is not your fault and you are not alone. You can call SafeSpace for help and support at (802) 863-0003.
Adapted from NCAVP’s webpage www.ncavp.org

Relationship Violence

RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE

SSLogoSTATISTICS

Abuse occurs in one of three relationships, queer or straight, in this country

At least 30,000 lesbians and 500,000 gay men are abused by their lovers each year

MORE INFORMATION

Domestic violence is an equal opportunity phenomenon. Size, weight, 'masculinity', 'femininity' or any other physical attribute or role is not a good indicator of whether a person will be a victim or a batterer. Victims/survivors of domestic violence, and those who abuse them, come from all walks of life, all races, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic classes, all educational levels, all occupations, and all political stripes. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used to exercise power and control over a partner. Behaviors include, but are not limited to, physical, verbal and emotional abuse, sexual violence, stalking, harassment and threatening.

Unlike heterosexual women, lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) people who have been abused have few services available to them. In addition to this problem, being LGBTQQ in a homophobic society can compound the isolation that accompanies domestic violence. Silence about domestic violence within the LGBTQQ community further isolates the victim, giving more power to the batterer. Most victims tend to minimize the violence that happens to them because of guilt, shame, and self-blame attached to victimization, and because others do not believe them, responding instead with criticism and accusations of exaggeration. Leaving is often the hardest thing for a victim to accomplish, and is often harder than staying; it requires strength, resources, self-confidence, self-reliance, and good self-esteem, all of which have been eroded by life with an abuser.

HELPING YOURSELF & SAFETY PLANNING

If you or someone you know is being abused, it is helpful to have a plan of action to help increase your safety. Here are some suggestions:
  • Apply for a Relief from Abuse Order
A Relief From Abuse Order is a Family Court Order to prevent further abuse. It does not punish the abuser for past acts. However, a violation of the order is a crime that is enforced by the police and criminal justice system. The order becomes effective once it has been served to the abuser by the police.

The order can be obtained on weekdays (before 4 PM) from the Family Court, 32 Church Street in Burlington. A SafeSpace Advocate may be available to help file the complaint. Weekdays after 4PM and weekends you can apply for a Temporary Relief From Abuse Order at your local police station or by calling an after hours clerk for assistance at 1-800-540-9990.

  • Develop a plan for future events. Explore the possibility of calling a neighbor or friend and using a 'code' word for having the police called.
  • Consider leaving a bag at work or a friend's house in case it is not safe to go home or there is a need to leave home quickly. The bag should include a few changes of clothes, important documents (i.e. birth certificate, driver's license, checkbook, etc.), cash, medication taken regularly, and important numbers (friends, family, doctors, etc.).
  • Explore different ways to leave the home safely. Identify which doors, windows, or stairwell would be best.
  • Open a bank account and/or credit card in your own name to establish or increase your independence. Think of other ways you can increase your independence.
  • Have positive thoughts about yourself and be clear about your needs. Read books, articles and poems to help you feel stronger.
  • Attend the SafeSpace support group for at least a few weeks to gain support from others and to learn more about your options.

Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents

HATE CRIMES AND BIAS INCIDENTS

SSLogoTYPES OF ANTI-LGBTQ+ VICTIMIZATION

It is important to remember that LGBTQ+ motivated harassment and violence is based on the perception of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Recent national statistics indicate an increase in violence directed toward straight people who for various reasons are misperceived as LGBTQQ and consequently targeted for attack.

MENACING OR THREATENING BEHAVIOR

Menacing behavior can manifest itself in calls, letters and other forms of indirect threatening behavior. Alternatively, following on foot, in vehicles, or attempts to intercept the victim at places of work or residence represent direct menacing behavior.

PHYSICAL ASSAULT

Physical assault can take place in a one-on-one, group-on-one or group-on-group context. Assault can be randomly provoked by “gay panic”, which means an unwarranted negative overreaction to same-sex communication, expressed interest or affection, or general fear of homosexuality.

BLACKMAIL/THREATS OF OUTING

Perpetrators of blackmail may be known to the victim or unknown, or in the form of prison pen-pale scams with outside accomplices.

SAME GENDER RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HOMOPHOBIC RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT

Rape can take the form of one-on-one assault or group-on-one gang attacks.

ENTRAPMENT (NON-LAW ENFORCEMENT)

In cases of entrapment, the victim is enticed to a public or private location where the victim is ridiculed, assaulted, or otherwise put in danger.

VANDALISM, PROPERTY DAMAGE

Vandalism can take the form of domestic attacks, in which the personal residence of a LGBT person comes under attack. Vandalism can also take place at a business, with the intent to actually destroy property, to "expose" the LGBT nature of the business, or to intimidate the customers.

VICTIM IMPACT

  • Victims of bias crimes have been attacked for being different, for being misunderstood, and for being hated. Because the basis for the attack is an integral part of their personal identity, victims may experience a deep personal crisis.
  • Stress and vulnerability may be heightened and/or prolonged.
  • Victims may reject the aspect of their identity that was the target of the attack.
  • Assumptions about life may be shattered.
  • Shattered assumptions regarding life/world view may be especially painful because the victim’s world view may be different from that of the dominant culture.
  • Victims of bias crimes who are minorities may feel the crime was diminished because of stereotyping, prejudice, or institutional indifference.
  • If membership in a target group is readily visible, victims of bias crimes may feel particularly vulnerable to repeat attacks. They may become afraid to associate with other members of a group that has been targeted or fail to seek needed services, believing that these actions increase their vulnerability.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

  • The victimization of individuals who are targets of hate based on some part of their identity is projected outward to all other community members.
  • Members of commonly targeted groups are reminded of their vulnerability.
  • Attacks on places of worship and cultural symbols may harm victims more than acts of vandalism; these attacks harm the entire community.

RESPONDING TO HATE & BIAS

Reacting to hate incidents can be very difficult and requires large amounts of courage and emotional control. It is very important for you to remember to maintain a level head and open mind. For example, if a homophobic joke is overheard, there is a possibility that the person or persons telling the joke may not be intentionally trying to harm the individual or group being targeted. Many times, you will face people who react based on their ignorance because they have not had the opportunity to interact with people or groups dissimilar from themselves. Remember that incidents in which there is a clear intent of harm are often originated by the lack of knowledge and understanding of the differences among individuals and the respect that we all deserve. Also, consider how an event of this nature can create an environment for positive dialogue within your community.

“Conflict is not necessarily destructive, some conflict is creative. When conflict escalates to violence, then it becomes non-productive. Conflict is creative when it is the predecessor of change and in many cases, change is not negative.”
— Paul Kimmel, Cultural Diversity at Work


WAYS TO RESPOND

BE PROACTIVE

  • Strive to create a welcoming and safe environment at your work and in your neighborhood
  • Challenge your peers to do the same
  • Have discussions with people in your life about prejudice and intolerance
  • Explore options and ideas about what to do before something happens
  • Learn how sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism and other forms of oppression are connected
  • Take every incident seriously

REACT QUICKLY!

  • When possible, hold conversations about how incidents affect the community
  • Show a film in a public venue which addresses prejudice
  • Apathy is interpreted as acceptance by offenders, the public and the victim of an incident

UNITE

  • Talk to peers, friends, co-workers and others in your community about what has happened
  • Gather ideas and get everyone involved

SUPPORT THE VICTIMS

  • Let them know you care
  • If they want, surround them with people they feel comfortable with - you don't need to talk about the issue, but this will let them know they are not alone
  • If you are the victim, report the incident and get support

CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE

  • Do not attend a hateful event. Consider whether how and if to protest
  • Find outlets for frustration, anger, and the desire to do something so that it does not become a negative function
  • Hold a unity rally
  • Promote a hate-free zone
  • Promote a creative event, such as a mural creation, which responds to the incident

TEACH TOLERANCE

  • Acknowledge and celebrate differences
  • Take friends to cultural events
  • Directly talk about biases which have been learned
  • Discuss the value of differences

DIG DEEPER

  • Look into the issues which divide us
  • Get to the heart of the incident, if you feel comfortable. What causes the offenders to feel fear or anger towards this group. Deal with the problem, not the symptom — educate!

THE VERMONT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Vermont Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction over allegations of unlawful discrimination in housing, places of public accommodation, and state employment. If you believe you may have experienced discrimination, please call the Human Rights Commission at 800-416-2010, ext. 25, or go to our website (hrc.vermont.gov) to download a complaint form to fill out and return to our office.

Places of public accommodation include schools, restaurants, stores, professional offices, government agencies and other places offering goods or services to the general public. Generally, the HRC can only investigate situations in which the most recent incident of possible discrimination occurred within one calendar year of your initial contact with the HRC.

If you work for a private employer and believe you may have experienced discrimination, call the Vermont Attorney General's Office Civil Rights Unit at 888-745-9195 or go to their website at www.atg.state.vt.us and click on "Discrimination" in the lefthand column.

SEX, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY: A Guide to Vermont’s Anti- Discrimination Law for Housing Providers, Home Buyers and Tenants 

pdfDownload housing brochure May 2011

SEX, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY: A Guide to Vermont’s Anti- Discrimination Law for Stores, Restaurants, Schools, Professional Offices and other Public Accommodations

pdfDownload public accommodations brochure May 2011

Survivor Stories

SURVIVOR STORIES

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This space will feature the words of actual survivors of sexual, physical, and emotional violence. If you would like to make a submission, please contact safespace@pridecentervt.org or call us at 802.860.7812.

I experienced a series of violent relationships with men during college just outside the border of Vermont. I was turned off by existing services who claimed to be culturally competent but didn't have the knowledge, resources, or experience to follow through. From then on, I carried a feeling of responsibility to other people who experienced similar violence to make sure they had access to better services. I feel that I am competent and capable of advocating for myself but when I was systematically running into obstacles and heterosexism, I realized there was a pretty significant problem with the way queer survivors are dealt with. I feel privileged to have been invited to work with a really great group of people to create new and innovative services for queer survivors in Vermont.

— Peter Jacobsen
Former SafeSpace board chair

* * *

The following survivor stories are included in the 2000 National Coalition Domestic Violence Report. To read the full report please visit www.avp.org

When Tara and I began dating, it was with the understanding that we might eventually consider a committed relationship. Before doing that, I wanted time to make sure that I was making the best decision. Even though Tara had agreed to these terms initially, she put a lot of pressure on me to decide. When I did, I learned that Tara was dating someone else and I felt very betrayed. When I talked to her about it, Tara even denied that we had been dating. She pushed me against the sofa and, out of fear, I attempted to leave. Tara pulled me back down, wouldn’t let me leave, and screamed about how crazy I was.

— Charlene, 32, female, lesbian, woman of color, disability, urban
NEW YORK

* * *

I’ve been with my partner, Rhonda, for three years. Our relationship is very deep, often in ways that I’ve never experienced before. All of my friends envy me. I have asthma and sometimes have to stay in the hospital. Rhonda is the only one who has ever been there for me.

There’s also a crazy side to our relationship and some wild fights. The last time we fought, Rhonda chased me up the fire escape with a knife. I escaped by climbing down the fire escape on another building.

Rhonda calls me at work all day. I have a new job and have to keep covering to make it look like clients are calling. She knows that. Some days I’m so nervous, I have a hard time doing my job. And whenever I see a car like Rhonda’s, my heart skips. I worry all the time.

Rhonda served time but she won’t tell me what she served time for. She told me that she’s killed before. I don’t know if it’s true but I feel trapped. I never thought it would be like this with a woman.

The NYC Anti-Violence Project helped me to think about how to stay safe when I’m with Rhonda. They also told me about domestic violence shelters and Orders of Protection. I keep a log at work just in case, and I even have the name of a domestic violence police officer who I can call.

As a woman of color and a lesbian, I don’t really want to take this to the police if I can handle it myself but it helps to know that there are people who understand and don’t minimize it because my partner is a woman.

— Betty, 25, female, lesbian, white, urban
SAN FRANCISCO

* * *

I had sex reassignment surgery a year ago and recently relocated to this area to attend school. I started dating Tom a week after arriving here. My English was limited and I had no friends in the States so I looked to Tom for emotional support. He was very gentle and loving and told me, “I will always love you for the woman you are.” He was also very supportive of my educational goals and offered to help with my tuition costs. A month after we’d known each other, I moved in with him. That’s when the violence began.

Tom told me that I cared more about my classes and homework than I did about him and that I would quit school if I really loved him. I stayed in school and he began calling me “he-she”, “it”, and “boy.” He also said that he would tell others that I was born male if I ever tried to break up with him. I was frightened of how my classmates and supervisor at work would treat me if they knew I was transgender. After all, my own parents told me that I was no longer their child because I’m transgender.

I told Tom that I would try harder to be a better girlfriend. I began to clean the house, make all of the meals, and give my paychecks to him. I also began to skip classes to keep Tom pacified. I never thought he would physically hurt me. One evening, however, I came home to find Tom drunk and playing with a gun. He pointed the gun at me, yelled and berated me, and told me that he was going to kill me. I tried to leave the apartment but Tom chased me to the door, locked it, grabbed and choked me. I passed out. When I gained consciousness, he was raping me. He called me names then beat me unconscious.

The next morning, Tom apologized and told me he loved me so much that he couldn’t help himself. He promised he’d never hurt me again. I eventually escaped after developing a safety plan with my counselor and relocated to another state. I haven’t heard from Tom and pray that he never finds me.

— Ana, 25, Transgender, female, heterosexual, South American immigrant.
CHICAGO

* * *

I called the crisis line after my partner told me, “I’m going to find your daughter and rape her. That’s what you get for fucking with me.” I had left my partner, Derrick, after ten years of emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. I’d been a prisoner in my own home.

When I met Derrick, I owned my own company and condominium and was doing very well. I had joint custody of my daughter and shared every other weekend with her. After being with Derrick for a year, my success evaporated. Derrick would hit me for no reason, make me sleep on the bathroom floor, force me to have unsafe nonconsensual sex with strangers (he wouldn’t allow me to use condoms), and would yell at and hit my daughter.

When I tried to reason with Derrick and plead for my daughter’s safety and mine, the violence escalated. I eventually became HIV positive after being raped by the men that Derrick brought into our home. Derrick stabbed me several different times but I usually didn’t go to the hospital for treatment of my wounds. The one time that I did go to the emergency room, Derrick told the doctors that I was clumsy and that I had cut myself while preparing dinner.

I became increasingly fearful for my daughter’s life as well as my own. I told my ex-wife that our daughter could no longer visit but I couldn’t explain why to her—Derrick would have killed me. She went to court and was granted full custody. Derrick didn’t permit me to go to court that day and told me that I didn’t deserve to be there.

We had numerous friends who saw my black eyes, cuts, bruises and the silence. One of them confronted Derrick and Derrick refused to speak to him again. Derrick continued to reduce our social life until we were totally isolated and only had each other —exactly the way he wanted it.

I lost my six-figure income, my condo, my daughter and my health. Derrick and I continue to live together in public housing but I can’t leave because I’m afraid that he’ll kill my daughter and make my life a living hell. I’m in therapy now and working on a safety plan. I can’t leave Derrick until I know that my daughter will be safe.

— James, 36, male, gay (not out), African American, urban
CHICAGO

* * *

I met Robert while I was on vacation in Los Angeles. Robert was handsome, charming, and swept me off my feet. We ended up spending every single minute together that I was in California. After I returned home, Robert and I talked on the phone twice a day.

I flew back to L.A. the following month and spent several days with him. He was drinking a lot at that time and had just lost his job because he was drinking at work. He told me, however, that he lost the job because his boss was homophobic and I felt a lot of anger at the “system” for doing that to him. Because he had nothing to keep him in L.A. anymore, he returned to Boston with me. He told me that he wanted to be with me, couldn’t imagine living his life without me, and that he was madly in love with me. I thought it was too soon for us to live together but I felt flattered by everything he said and we ended up moving in together.

We started fighting a lot. Robert got mad at ridiculous things and then I discovered that he was cheating on me. I confronted him and asked him to leave. Instead of leaving, he hit me and said, “Don’t you ever tell me to leave this house!” The next day, he apologized and promised he’d never hit me again.

For the next two years, Robert beat me up on several occasions and finally broke my jaw. A week later, he knocked me into the wall so hard that I needed stitches in my head. I got a restraining order against him the following day. He called to apologize three days after it had been served. He was being so nice that I let him back into the house and, as soon as he was inside, he became abusive again. He broke the dishes and called me a “faggot spic.” I called the police and they arrested him.

Later, Robert called me from the police station and said that since I got him arrested, I should bail him out. I did bail him out but I didn’t let him come home with me. Several days later, I returned to court to request a year’s extension on the restraining order. Even though the judge told Robert that he would be arrested again if he came near me, he kept calling and asking that I forgive him and take him back. Hoping that he’d changed, I let him back in the house a couple of times but he was violent each time. Two months ago, I visited my family in Puerto Rico. When I returned to Boston, I heard that Robert had moved back to the West Coast. I hope he really did. I’m getting phantom hang-up calls at least once a day from anonymous numbers and I fear that it might be him.

— Javier, 34, male, gay, Latino, urban
BOSTON

* * *

Laura and I met just as I had finally managed to extricate myself from my abusive partner, Margo. Laura and I became friends and fell in love. In fact, it was Laura who actually protected me from physical assault by Margo as I gathered my remaining belongings from the home that Margo and I had shared. I felt eternally grateful to Laura for her protection of me from my violent ex-lover.

The first six months with Laura were full of romance and relief but as we entered the end of our first year together, Laura became controlling about where I went and with whom. She was especially threatened by my relationship with my mother and sister and began to make outrageous demands. She insisted that I cut a one-week vacation with my family short because she said she was having a mental and emotional breakdown (which began the day I left for vacation).

Laura also made frequent suicide threats and I began to feel emotionally stressed. Although I barely had any energy left for my job and home, I overlooked it thinking that I could make Laura’s life easier with the power of my love and dedication. In addition to her controlling behaviors, Laura was the most compassionate, wise, spiritual person I’d ever met. She was also a political activist and frequently spoke to the public about queer rights, gender issues and same-sex domestic violence. This made me feel secure and I told myself that Laura was someone who wouldn’t hurt me.

During the second year that Laura and I were together, she told me that she had always felt like she was in the wrong gender-body and was considering transitioning. I felt completely supportive. I loved Laura very much and her happiness was important to me.

I spent the next couple of years transitioning in my own way as I examined my beliefs about gender politics. I accompanied Laura "now called Larry" to support groups and various functions in the transgender community. By the time Larry began testosterone shots, I had completely accepted my partner as Larry and was grateful to be a part of the process with him.

Larry’s moods began to fluctuate more frequently and he began to take his periodic rage out on me more and more. He intimidated me, yelled and threw tantrums to scare me.

At the same time, Larry was constantly struggling to maintain his job and rented room. He began having health issues and underwent several surgeries. He also began taking strong prescription medication for chronic pain relief. These events pulled me even closer to him and I didn’t want to leave him in such a vulnerable state. I had hardly any time for myself, my friends or family, however, because Larry demanded that I spend all of my free time with him. I hung on hoping that things would change.

During our sixth year together, Larry shoved me to the floor so hard that I bruised my back. We tried breaking up several times but were never apart for more than several months at a time. We saw a couple’s counselor who recommended that Larry attend an anger management group but he never followed through. I lived in fear of Larry and his constant abuse. I cried a lot and he would apologize or tell me to get over it and stop being afraid.

When Larry left for five months of travel, I began to regain a sense of myself again. Just as I was beginning to feel good, he came back to town. He intimidated me into a six month trial run of living together. Several months later, I was so depressed that I was barely able to function.

All I did was work and take care of Larry who spent most days at home getting high and watching television. When I planned a vacation for myself, he exploded. I was, once again, afraid all the time.

One day, Larry shoved me down the stairs and pushed me out the front door of our building. At other times, he would block my path if I attempted to leave. He stole my keys and locked me in a room. Once, when I told him that I was going to call the police, he pulled the phone out of the wall and said he would kill himself and me before any police came to our house.

I left one night and stayed at a hotel in another city then moved in with a family member. He found me and starting stalking my family members and me. I filed for a restraining order, which was very difficult since Larry had helped me out of my last abusive relationship and because he was a speaker and educator about domestic violence.

I obtained help through a local group for lesbian survivors of domestic violence. The group has given me the honesty and courage to stay out of denial. I am happy to be alive and committed to not entering another abusive relationship.

— Janet, 35, female lesbian, white, urban
SAN FRANCISCO

Myths & Facts

MYTHS & FACTS

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There are many myths about violence in general and especially about violence in LGBTQ+ communities. Do you know the realities?

MYTH 1: ONLY STRAIGHT WOMEN GET BATTERED. MEN ARE NOT VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, AND WOMEN NEVER BATTER.

Reality: Such myths ignore and deny the realities of same-sex relationships. Men can be and are victims of domestic violence. Women can be batterers. Domestic violence is fundamentally a power issue. Even when two people are of the same gender, power differences exist and can be abused.

MYTH 2: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS MORE COMMON IN HETEROSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS THAN IT IS IN SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS.

Reality: There is no reason whatsoever to assume that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people are less violent than heterosexual men and women. Research on same-sex domestic violence can be difficult, given the fact that many LGBTQ+ people are not comfortable being open about their relationships, let alone abusive ones. Research that has been done indicates that battering in same-sex relationships is about as common as in heterosexual relationships. It is increasingly agreed that battering presents one of the most significant health risks to LGBTQ+ communities today.


MYTH 3: IT REALLY ISN’T VIOLENCE WHEN A SAME-SEX COUPLE FIGHTS. IT’S JUST A LOVERS’ QUARREL, A FAIR FIGHT BETWEEN EQUALS.

Reality: This is based on the false assumption that two people of the same gender have no power differences. It also ignores the fact that domestic violence depends on the choice of one partner to take advantage of her or his power in abusive ways. There is nothing “fair” about being knocked against a wall, being threatened, or enduring endless criticism from an angry lover. Dismissing domestic violence as “just a lover’s quarrel” trivializes and excuses violence that is as real and dangerous as any in a heterosexual relationship.

MYTH 4: IT REALLY ISN’T VIOLENCE WHEN GAY MEN FIGHT. IT’S BOYS BEING BOYS. A MAN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DEFEND HIMSELF.

Reality: These ideas grow out of a larger societal attitude and the primitive notion that it is acceptable for men to be violent; that it is normal or even appropriately masculine. There is nothing normal or appropriate about domestic violence. The vast majority of men and women are not violent and the majority of same-sex relationships are free of abuse. “Boys being boys” may have been harmless (or was it?) on the playground at age six, but when you’re an adult with injuries inflicted by your lover, it is neither normal nor acceptable.

MYTH 5: THE BATTERER IS ALWAYS BIGGER, STRONGER, MORE “BUTCH.” VICTIMS WILL ALWAYS BE SMALLER, WEAKER, MORE FEMININE.

Reality: Experience with heterosexual battering and attitudes about traditional sex roles lead many to fall into stereotypes of how batterers and victims, respectively, should look and act. Unfortunately, such stereotypes are of little actual use in helping us identify who the batterer is in a same-sex relationship. A person who is small, but prone to violence and rage can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger, and non-violent. Size, weight, “masculinity”, “femininity” or any other physical attribute or role is not a good indicator of whether a person will be a victim or a batterer. A batterer does not need to be 6’1” and built like a rugby player to use a weapon against you, smash your compact discs, cut up your clothing, or tell everyone at work that you really are “queer.”

MYTH 6: IT ONLY HAPPENS WHEN HE/SHE ________… SO THAT’S THE REAL PROBLEM, NOT BATTERING.

Reality: Alcohol, drugs, work problems, jealousy, trauma histories, HIV/AIDS and stresses resulting from racism or homophobia may all combine with battering, but they don’t explain or excuse the battering. If a person who batters is also on drugs or alcohol, that person has two serious separate problems. Similarly, a person who has been a victim of child abuse, a hate crime or other trauma in their lives is not relieved of responsibility for his or her own abusive conduct.

MYTH 7: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PRIMARILY OCCURS AMONG PEOPLE OF COLOR, THOSE WHO HANG OUT IN BARS, OR THOSE FROM POOR OR WORKING CLASS BACKGROUNDS. NO ONE COULD BE A BATTERER WHO IS EDUCATED, FEMINIST, RELIGIOUS, FRIENDLY AND LIKEABLE, INVOLVED IN SOCIAL ISSUES, WORKING IN THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MOVEMENT, ETC.

Reality: Domestic violence is an equal opportunity phenomenon. Batterers come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic classes, all educational levels, all occupations and all political stripes. This myth is helpful to those who would like to deny or distance themselves from domestic abuse in our communities, but no group is exempt.

MYTH 8: LESBIAN AND GAY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, A VERSION OF S & M. THE VICTIM ACTUALLY LIKES IT.

Reality: This myth persists in part because many people still define and understand LGBTQ+ people exclusively through sexual behavior. Confusing S & M (sado-masochism) with battering keeps us from facing the reality that domestic violence occurs in all kinds of relationships and is not the victim’s fault. In consensual S & M, any violence, coercion, or domination occurs within the context of a mutually pleasurable ‘scene’ within which there is trust and/or an agreement between the parties about the limits and boundaries of behavior. In contrast domestic violence takes place without any mutual trust or agreement, and is not consensual or pleasurable for the victim. A batterer’s violent and coercive behaviors don’t just affect the sexual relationship, but pervade other aspects of the relationship as well. This is not to say that abuse cannot take place within relationships where there is S & M. A batterer may actually coerce consent to violent or dominating sexual behavior or violate agreed upon boundaries. But when this happens, it’s abuse and not S & M.

How To Help Someone

HOW TO HELP SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT WHO HAS EXPERIENCED VIOLENCE

SSLogoUnless you are a trained victim's advocate, the three best things you can do are provide a place for your friend to vent their emotions, validate their feelings, and refer them to someone with experience and expertise such as the Advocates at SafeSpace

If your friend has been sexually assaulted or is experiencing relationship violence, you can expect them to be experiencing some combination of fear, anger, guilt, shame, mistrust, and disconnection. They may have experienced the fear of losing their life and as a result be afraid of everything around them. Your friend may be angry at the perpetrator but also angry at her or himself and at friends and family. Even if the survivor seems to know it is not their fault, they may experience shame and guilt. So much of our society tells them they are at least partially responsible. As most assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, they certainly may be feeling a lack of trust for those around them and the extreme stress, anxiety, loss of sleep and feeling as though they have lost control makes many survivors feel as though they are disconnected from normal life.

You can help your friend. You can help them focus on their strengths and provide a place for them to vent their emotions, even anger. You can help them understand that no one is responsible for being raped and that they have the right to feel a lack of trust for others. You can help them understand that it is normal to feel unstable under such difficult circumstances. Here's how you can help.

REFER THEM TO AN ADVOCACY SERVICE

Advocacy services such as SafeSpace are the most complete resource for your friend at this difficult time. They can answer questions, provide a large number of options and be with your friend through medical and legal processes, not to mention the emotional recovery. These individuals are trained professionals who know what to expect. Most importantly, they are completely confidential and your friend will be left to make their own decisions. By referring to such a service, your friend can get the most complete care possible.

BE A GOOD LISTENER

Let them know that they can talk with you. Listen carefully and respond to feelings as well as words. By reflecting what you are hearing back to the person, you can help them better understand their own emotions and thoughts during this difficult time. Some survivors will want to talk about their experiences. Keep their privacy. It is a survivor's decision when and whether to tell others about what happened. Don’t push them to reveal details about the incident or ask questions just because you're curious.

BELIEVE THEM

Survivors need to know that you believe what happened. It's rare that people make up stories about sexual assault or relationship violence. Don’t question details of the assault. If the perpetrator is someone you know, don't say, "I can't believe they would do that!" Important things to communicate to the survivor:

  • "It's not your fault."
  • "I'm glad you're safe now."
  • "I'm sorry it happened."

VALIDATE THE SURVIVOR’S FEELINGS

Acknowledge their sadness, anger, fear, or confusion. Let them know that all of these feelings are normal after a sexual assault or when experiencing relationship violence. Assure them that they aren't alone. Also:
  • If a survivor was drunk during the assault, assure them that they aren't to blame for what happened.
  • If a survivor feels guilty because they didn't fight back, assure them that fear sometimes inhibits us.
  • Tell them that they did the best they could to survive the situation and that no one deserves to be assaulted.
  • Don’t blame survivors for what happened by asking them things like why they were drinking, why they didn't fight back, what they were wearing, or by telling them what you would have done.

LET SURVIVORS CONTROL THEIR OWN LIVES

Provide survivors with information about their options. If they choose one, support them by providing phone numbers or information. Allow them to make a decision for themselves and assure them that you will support whatever decision they make. Don’t try to take control of the situation. Let them make that decision for themselves. Don't threaten to hurt the perpetrator, the survivor has lived through one violent experience and does not need to be confronted with another.

RESPECT THE VICTIM'S PRIVACY

Don't tell others what your friend tells you. Let the victim decide who they will tell. Encourage them to seek support and assistance from others.

STAY WITH THEM THROUGH THE HEALING PROCESS

Express your concern over the long run. Healing takes time. Talk about other aspects of survivors' lives. This reassures survivors that they have not become the sexual assault or the relationship violence. Survivors will have good and difficult days. Stay with them through both.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Hearing about the sexual assault or violent relationship of a friend or family member is upsetting. You may feel scared, angry, helpless, sad or all of these emotions and more. You may want to talk about your feelings. SafeSpace advocates are available to speak to friends of survivors, these services are completely confidential.

ADDITIONAL ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO END VIOLENCE

INDIVIDUALS

  • Speak out against media images that sexualize violence, or perpetuate gender inequality and discrimination. Support media messages about healthy relationships and respect.
  • Learn about community resources that are available to support survivors, and to hold offenders accountable, including SafeSpace, Hope Works, WHBW, the UVM Campus Advocacy Program, CUSI, and the SANE Nurse Program. Many resources are available that could help you, or a friend or family member, in a time of need. Check out our links section to learn more.
  • Donate your time or your money to organizations that are working to end sexual and domestic violence.
  • Be aware that any of your friends and family members could be survivors – don’t victim blame no matter who you are speaking to.
  • Contact your local and state representatives to support adequate funding for community-based advocacy organizations.
  • Write letters to the editors of local papers to show your commitment to a safe community, and to support survivors.
  • Stop using violent images in your own speech (“I’m going to kill you,” “I was raped by the IRS this year”). Don’t participate in sexist jokes.
  • During political campaigns, ask candidates what specific actions they will take to support advocacy organizations and end violence in our community.

FAMILIES

  • Model nonviolent, healthy behaviors and relationships, especially for children.
  • Teach children that they are the owners of their own bodies.
  • Teach children correct terms for body parts, and make it comfortable to talk about them.

FRIENDS, NEIGHBORHOODS

  • Speak up when you witness someone being treated with disrespect. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, ethnocentrism, and classism affect us all and create an environment where violence can happen.
  • Call the police if you overhear or witness an act of violence in your neighborhood – you could be saving someone’s life

COMMUNITIES

  • Participate in local efforts to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence. Come to the next Take Back the Night march and rally in April (Sexual Violence Awareness Month) or the Speak Out in October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month), organized by many community-based anti-violence organizations.
Adapted from a list by Celia Cuddy

Anti-Violence Resources