Valentine’s Day is typically a holiday when people celebrate love.
However, for a growing number of same-sex couples, Feb. 14 is a dark reminder of their abusive relationships.
Boulder’s Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence works to bring these issues to light and make sure all victims aren’t afraid to speak out against domestic violence.
According to SPAN’s website (www.safehousealliance.org), 50 percent of heterosexual and same-sex couples will experience at least one violent incident in a relationship.
Dylan Tobin, a 19-year-old University of Colorado at Boulder Gay-Straight Alliance member, was surprised to hear how many same-sex couples experience domestic violence, and feels that it’s very important for LGBTQQ peoples to be aware of these statistics.
Tobin admits that he knows of groups such as the Lambda Victims Center in Fort Collins, Colo. that offer free counseling and put on plays and other public events to raise awareness, but feels that overall there is a lack of information about and advocacy for same-sex domestic violence.
Even though the incident rate in homosexual and heterosexual relationships is approximately the same, only one percent of the domestic violence arrests in the county have involved same-sex relationships.
Survivors of domestic violence often don’t report the violence for fear of revenge from their partner, feelings of guilt and lack of awareness of their resources. In addition to this, SPAN’s website points out that LGBTQQ survivors also have concerns about a lack of accessible counseling and fear of disapproval from family or the police.
A 21-year-old CU student, who for the sake of anonymity will be referred to as John Smith, says he was afraid to speak out after a former partner sexually assaulted him.
“I kept it to myself with the exception of my parents,” Smith said. “My parents were supportive and told me he [the abuser] was dirt.”
Although there is a fair amount of same-sex domestic violence occurring across the country, SPAN and many other organizations like it do not provide shelter or counseling for gay men.
“That’s ridiculous,” Tobin said. “I think there should be more resources available.”
With this in mind, SPAN’s administrative assistant Katie Edwards wants members of the LGBTQQ community to not be scared to seek help and to be aware of the advocacy that is available to them.
“We have a group – the LGBTQ support group – that we have every Thursday,” Edwards said. “Domestic violence happens in same sex relationships as well, and we want to be aware of that and be advocates for them too.”
Smith believes that the more same-sex violence awareness and advocacy there is, the less afraid survivors will be to seek help.
“I don’t think that d.v. is by any means more common in same-sex couples but I think specialized support gearing specifically for same-sex couples would be very beneficial for the LGBT community,” Smith said. “If I had to pick a support source it would definitely make me feel better to go to a specifically LGBT group so that I would feel more understood and comfortable.”