Saturday, December 26, 2009

LGBT Intimate Partner Violence

As, I mentioned yesterday, I'm watching the journey of another family dealing with their LGBT daughter. Their child's partner is extremely controlling which is also complicating and burdening the entire family system in coping with their child's coming out. Their daughter also lives with a mild cognitive disability and they fear seduction and or exploitation into the "gay lifestyle" away from the church and by extension (to their way of thinking) away from them by the partner.

No right thinking parent wants their child involved in an abusive partnership be it straight or LGBT, but LGBT intimate partner abuse and violence is further complicated by political gamesmanship over the issue,stereotyping by the media, and a lack of awareness of the scope of the problem among the LGBT community and the overculture at large.

Every year The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs produces a report on Domestic Violence in the LGBT community. The recently released 2008 report includes survivor narratives plus agency narratives regarding eight fatalities among other important facts and analysis.

One of the hardest aspects of coming to grips with Intimate Partner Violence in the LGBT community is the fact of the existence of woman on woman violence. This even extends as far as to rape and these issues have been known for sometime. While most parents and schools try to give their daughters some preparation for dealing with a male perpetrator, little attention is paid to the situation of female same sex rape because it is so geared to existing intimate partner relationships. Jane Lowers article on rape within the lesbian community documents the problem.

Culturally, we have a very difficult time embracing the political incorrectness of the facts regarding woman generated domestic violence. We would much rather focus on the high profile missing wife case, because it feeds our view of the dominant, menacing male. For women who formed a lesbian identity based on egalitarian notions of finding greater equality among a female dominated community and fleeing the patriarchy and its perceived ingrained patterns of abuse to becoming a victim of intimate partner violence is a violation on many fronts. Alan Dershowitz has written very critically of the current societal blind eye towards women perpetrators who murder their husbands and the fact that women are equal opportunity murderers of their partners in opposite sex relationships.

Bringing this back to my struggling friends who are trying to process the issues surrounding their daughter's coming out and her relationship, I would encourage them to become informed of the issues of LGBT Intimate Partner Violence in a healthy and appropriate way. Healthy and appropriate would preclude the use of the existence of LGBT Intimate Partner Violence as a weapon or a reason not to make the choice of being partnered. Instead, I would suggest a careful, loving discussion about the concerns they have about the controlling behavior they have seen in their daughter's partner. And, instead of distancing themselves or cutting their daughter off, they actually need to seek ways to keep the channels of communication open and the door to their home and hearts open should their daughter need to return. And, while still welcoming the new partner as a part of their family.

All of which is easier said than done in any in law relationship regardless of whether a child's relationship is LGBT or straight. Add in the internal conflicts created in all parties due to membership in the church and the scene is fully set for great familial and personal chaos in trying to work through the process. And, in this case where there are cognitive problems and the daughter is living with a disbility the concerns of the parents should not be diminished.

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