As a person who often works with people who have been affected by intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence) as victims or perpetrators, there are certain patterns that are trackable within the personality and behaviors of cyclical perpetrators. At its core, intimate partner violence is about isolation and control. Most of the time, perpetrators will manipulate their partners in ways that creates distrust in the other people in their life. They will gaslight their partners so that it looks like the true victim is the person who is abusive rather than acknowledge their own actions in the matter. So, if these behaviors are so easily tracked, why does the problem continue? Well, as with most issues concerning uncomfortable situations, it’s complicated…
Research in the area of intimate partner violence began in he 1970’s. It was primarily studied from the point of view of hetero-sexual relationships. There was this idea (that wasn’t “wrong” as much as it was simplistic) that intimate partner violence was a result of men feeling the need to dominate their wives and/or girlfriends. As I said, isolation and control are the abuser’s goal. They look for weak spots. This isn’t to say that their victims are weak people! Abusers are just very good at finding those little places in people’s lives that maybe they aren’t ready to share with the world. Vulnerability is beauty to someone who respects it. However, to those who seek control, it is an opportunity. Abuse is humiliation. Abusers play on the possibility of wounding those vulnerabilities.
For the most part, abuse can look the same from one situation to the next. There is physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse. Physical and sexual are obvious; so, I won’t go into detail about that here. But the emotional and mental is where it gets tricky. It is so much easier to get stuck in these types of toxic relationships because it’s more difficult to pinpoint exactly where the abuse is occurring. There is no singular event. It can largely be subjective.
One population that is at a very high risk of being taken advantage of in this way is the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s be honest, a group of people can have all the legal freedoms and access to equality the law can give them. These freedoms do not grant them acceptance into the surrounding community. This is a vulnerability that is created by outside forces: created by us. When we don’t, as a society, create safe spaces for people to be honest, we create the vulnerabilities that others can (and sadly do) use to their advantage. Community so often means safety. A well-connected community is a safety net. There are risk factors for people in the LGBTQ+ community that are unique. These unique vulnerabilities come in the form of embarrassment of being “outed,” having been cut off from family because of their sexual identity, or lack of affirming resources.
Better stories are what I want for this city. Stories of people who have support when it is needed and are reminded of their worth. If we teach that homosexuality is something that should be hated, the agreement of that hatred becomes internalized by those with same-sex attraction. We instill the idea that the idea of love has one correct look, and that isn’t the case for so many in our community.
Rather than just pointing at a problem with no reasonable explanation, I spent the last couple of weeks doing some digging. The last thing I want to do is to send people from a dangerous situation to a triggering one. The only resource I was able to speak with was a representative at Penelope House. She stated that, contrary to popular belief, Penelope House is available to more than just victimized women. They are affirming of those in the LGBTQ+ community. They treat people who come to them for help on a case-by-case basis. She stated that they are often in contact with other organizations in town who offer safe spaces for this part of our community, such as Rainbow Mobile and Prism. Hopefully this communication can continue, and others can realize that the doors to Penelope House is wider than we may have thought they were.
As always, Lifelines Counseling Center is having their Roundtable Discussion on October 7th at 1pm and 7pm. The topic this month is Mental Health Awareness. The evening discussion will be mainly focused on Mental Health Awareness in Teens. We hope you can tune in and take part on this wonderful conversation.
BethAnn Mills, Intern