The Network/La Red Brings LGBTQ Sexual & Domestic Violence To The Forefront
March 11, 2019
The Rainbow Times
By: Audrey Cole
BOSTON—A Massachusetts coalition of more than 60 organizations against sexual assault and violence, recently met with state lawmakers to brief them on key legislation and budget priorities for 2019, pulling LGBTQ+ and other marginalized survivor needs into the larger inclusive focus.
“In everything we do, Jane Doe works intentionally to be inclusive and responsive to the needs of survivors from every community,” said Maureen Gallagher, Policy Director, Jane Doe, Inc. “We understand that identity, race, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and many other factors contribute to how survivors are affected by sexual and domestic violence, and how service organizations engage with survivors.”
Sabrina Santiago, Co-Executive Director of The Network/La Red (TNLR) emphasized the impact that the legislative priorities will have on the LGBTQ community, especially bisexual and transgender members that experience higher abuse at alarming rates.
“These bills will not only support the needs of cisgender heterosexual survivors, but those from LGBQ/T communities as well,” she said. “LGBQ/T people experience partner abuse at a rate equal to or higher than straight cisgender communities—from 25-33 percent of relationships. For bisexual women that rate is 2.6 times higher and studies show that transgender individuals experience abuse at a rate between 31-50 percent.”
According to Gallagher, this year’s priorities reflect an increased emphasis on prevention and ongoing support of survivors.
“Policies like the Healthy Relationships Grant Program, the Act Relative to Healthy Youth, and the Act Relative to Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses are critical to helping young people and institutions better understand and identify the root causes and precursors to gender-based violence, and to preventing future instances of sexual and domestic violence,” she explained.
In addition, funding remains a critical component.
Jane Doe has identified the need for a “significant increase in funding for the Healthy Relationships Grant Program, along with increased funding for direct services, and legislation that will address issues of sexual and domestic violence on college campuses, empower our immigrant communities, and help provide economic justice for survivors,” Gallagher said.
Although there are similarities between straight cisgender and LGBTQ+ abuse, there are also distinct differences as Santiago cited with specific examples.
“ … Unique barriers that exist for LGBQ/T survivors results from the intersection of abuse and the homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia we face,” explained Santiago. “For instance, a gay male abuser might tell his newly out partner, ‘this is just how things are in gay relationships.’ And if that survivor was raised on stereotypes of gay people as violent and unhealthy, he might believe that. This is only reinforced when that survivor, say, goes to his college campus police who laugh at him and refuse to help him. Or, the abuser of a transgender individual might tell their partner, ‘If you leave, I’ll report you for child abuse, and watch how quickly your kids get taken away.’ Given the history of transgender parents losing custody and visitation of their children solely based on their gender identity, that is a risk most parents won’t take.”
The LGBTQ+ community also tends to have less familial and public service support, which compounds receiving the help they need, according to Santiago.