In Part 3 of "It's (Just) the Way That I Love You: Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships," I detailed the complete cycle of intimate partner violence/abuse (IPV/A), also known as domestic violence/abuse, in the heterosexual community. It's now time to demonstrate how the victim can make his or her "great escape." But first, let's recap what this atrocious, demeaning and potentially life-threatening behavior really is.
Battering is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person with whom an intimate relationship is or has been shared through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Battering happens when one person believes that they are entitled to control another.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines it thus:
Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence/abuse) is defined as a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.
Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency in same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships. Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTQ individuals than previously thought is living in fear of an abusive partner. Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 lesbians and as many as 500,000 gay men are battered by a partner. About one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships is abusive in some way.
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn't "play fair." Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her "thumb." Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Segal and Smith add:
The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it's coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
So let's explore how you can make your "great escape." The Women's Justice Center, which is headquartered in Santa Rosa, Calif., outlines various steps that an individual can take to free himself or herself, which I've paraphrased below:
- Your struggle to escape is heroic. As you begin your own struggle to free yourself from domestic violence and abuse, often remind yourself that yours is one of the most worthy and difficult struggles of all.
Part 5 will focus on the victim's decision to heal.
If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901). And always remember that it ain't (just) the way that he or she loves you.