For those in abusive same-sex relationships, getting help means special challenges.
“Culture is telling that person that ‘You’re not normal,’” sadi Tiffany Braley, an educator about domestic violence and outreach coordinator to the LGBTQ community from Vera House. Vera House offers shelter and support for some victims of domestic abuse. Said Braley, “If I’m gay and in an abusive relationship, it may be harder to seek help because people could look at me as if I’m abnormal.”
Domestic abuse — in traditional and LGBTQ relationships — are often under-reported, say experts. And those in LGBTQ relationships say they need more specialized program.
For most of those in abusive relationships, reporting the abuse is difficult, said Janet Epstein, director of The Advocacy Center. The center offers support programs for SUNY and Syracuse University students who are suffering from from sexual and relationship violence.
“Of college students, only 5 percent tell law enforcement,” Epstein said. “Most often, they just tell a friend.”
For those in same-sex relationships, social barriers make reporting even harder, Epstein said. “They may not be sure how to tell law enforcement about the problem,” Epstein said.
A lack of specialized programs for those in abusive LGBTQ relations is a major problem, say experts. Vera House, for example, offers programs for those in traditional relationships, not for those in LGBTQ relationships.
The are needs more programs, specifically for the LGBTQ community, said Braley, the LGBTQ outreach coordinator for Vera House. “There’s an obvious need to implement new programs but they’re not comfortable identifying yet,” Braley said.
For those seeking specialized help for their LGBTQ relationship, Braley said, she refers them to other organizations in the area.
Sage Upstate, an organization for older members of the LGBT community, is one of those places.
Karen Hall is the programs coordinator of Sage Upstate. Sage Upstate does not have any programs specific to domestic abuse, she said. But Sage Upstate offers men’s empowerment groups, a 12-step program for people dealing with addictions, support for members who have died, and a women’s biannual support group, among others.
She hoped in the future, Hall said, there would be more funding for programs involving those in same-sex partner violence. As for right now, she said, she hopes people continue to push for acceptance.
“Everyone needs to recognize that people are different,” said Hall, “and that’s okay.”
(Kathleen Lees is a graduate student in magazine, newspaper and online journalism.)