GLBTQ Task Force Against Domestic Violence provides education

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By Dee Crumm
Knoxville News Writer

An April 18 seminar presented by the GLBTQ Task Force Against Domestic Violence offered an opportunity for local community service providers and others to learn how to provide effective domestic violence services to the GLBT community.

The event was held in the Victor Ashe Auditorium in the Family Justice Center in downtown Knoxville.

The Task Force members presenting the workshop included Annette Beebe, Task Force President; Tom Barr, Supervisor of the Knoxville Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit; and Kelly Peters of Child and Family Tennessee’s Family Crisis Center.

The seminar began with the basics, such as definitions, terminology, and some myths and facts about GLBT victimization.

Housing and homelessness were also discussed, including issues such as housing discrimination, GLBT homeless population numbers, and causation. Health care accessibility, education, and prevention measures topics included information regarding HIV/AIDS and transgender care. GLBT youth and elders’ needs were also on the agenda and highlighted concerns such as lack of tolerance in public schools, specific service needs, and spiritual needs of these populations.

The keynote speaker was University of Tennessee Professor Dr. Gilya Gerda Schmidt who addressed the workshop audience. Dr. Schmidt’s concentrations in Women’s Studies and Multiculturalism made her a valued addition to the workshop. Along with her Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from the University of Pittsburgh and Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Schmidt’s list of honors includes a UT Faculty Development Award for research in Germany, a National Alumni Association Outstanding Teaching Award, UT Faculty Development Awards related to studies in Germany and Israel, the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council Outstanding Faculty Award, and many others.

Attendees were instructed in many aspects of domestic violence, including statistics and basic definitions. Many of the statistics provided offered some surprising revelations. For example: The rates for Domestic Violence (DV) in homosexual relationships occur at the same rate as heterosexual relationships (Based on a 10-year study by the National Coalition of Anti-violent Programs). Every nine seconds a man/woman is battered in the US either by his/her lover, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse and/or significant other (Barr, Bebe and Peters 2006).

Abuse was described as: withholding affection, destroying personal property, humiliating, isolating, yelling, placing in fear, threatening, unwanted touching, sexual name calling, accusations of unfaithfulness, forcing sex, financial deprivation, pushing, slapping, strangling, or shoving. 

Participants learned that battering is not caused by stress, genetics, anger, chemical abuse, relationship problems, the victim’s behavior, or relationship problems. Battering occurs as a choice to use violence to control someone else. The victim is so frightened that they will do anything to survive. Battering is about power and control. This syndrome is not unique to heterosexual victims, but to all victims. The feelings of remorse, guilt, regret, fear, shame, self-doubt, loneliness and suicide are just as great, regardless of sexual orientation.

Battering in the GLBT community is unique in some ways. These include the fear of isolation from family, friends and community; the consequences of outing the victim at work, school, or to family and friends; the “mutual combat” misconception among law enforcement, shelters, the judicial system and other resource agencies; homophobia; and, finally, victim blaming. All of these factors contribute to the isolation and repeated victimization of GLBT citizens.

Domestic violence is an act perpetrated by one or more persons who exhibit power and control over their victim. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, class, appearance, or sexual orientation. In the general population, the stereotype is that sexual violence only happens where a male is present. What is often not considered is the perpetration of violence by women, especially when a woman is sexually assaulting her female partner. This misconception only enhances the power and control by the female batterer over the female victim. 

The healing process is almost nonexistent for the victim. Most agencies are not educated in handling issues like homophobia, heterosexism, racism, biphobia, transphobia, and isolation unique to the GLBT Community. Denial by some GLBT community members that the perpetrators of these acts are actually part of the community can lead to invisibility of the victims within the community. Fears of accessing police assistance for fear of outing yourself or of the ramifications of a responding officer who may be potentially homophobic lead victims to delay asking for help. The victims are trapped by ill-equipped service providers who are not ready to handle the specific issues of GLBT clients.

If you or someone you know is in need, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224. You can also email glbtqknoxvilletn@yahoo.com. Calls and emails are confidential.