It happens to us too: Abuse and sexual assault in LGBTQ relationships

Oluwatomike Bali
Staff Writer

As part of the sexual assault awareness month, the LGBT Center and VARP hosted an event called “It happens to us too”. The purpose of this event is to shed more light and raise awareness on domestic violence and sexual assault in the LGBTQ community.

Nicole Engel, who works with the anti-violence section of OutFront Minnesota, moderated the event. OutFront Minnesota is an agency focused on leading Minnesota toward LGBTQ equality.

Engel started out by showing a music video talking about domestic violence in relationships, the video portrayed a different scenario contrary to popular belief. The video portrayed a man being the victim in a heterosexual relationship and a more feminine woman as the perpetrator of violence among same sex couple.

Engel also talked about common myths about LGBTQ violence & abuse. “There are no laws against sexual assault between two women or men. Men folks are never survivors and feminine folks are never perpetrators. If two women or men are violent with one another, it’s fighting and not abuse,” said Engel. She called these all “myths” because domestic violence happens in the LGBTQ community at the same rate as heterosexual relationships. About one in four people will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Relationship abuse isn’t always physical. Engel said, “Abusers generally use the same tools to gain power and control in a relationship, and the LGBTQ community has extra tools like homophobia, transphobia or biphobia to leverage abuse against their partners.”

There is also the problem of “who’s abusing who” as most domestic violence agencies do not have a comprehensive screening process. Most times in mainstream agencies, it can be tricky to identify who the victim is because it is not uncommon for the perpetrators of the abuse to call seeking services acting like the victim. However, Engel stated that her agency has been able to come up with a lot of screening tools, looking out for red flags to identify who the real victim is.

She also talked about other barriers to using the service available is fear of outing yourself to the community, fear of homophobic, or transphobic responses from service providers. Most agencies are more focused on domestic violence among heterosexual relationship. She said there is a fear of having to educate those who they reach out to.

There are also not enough domestic violence shelter homes for men in Minnesota. There is only one agency in the state of Minnesota that takes male victims.

To conclude, Engel talked about sexual assault in the LGTBQ community.

Header photo: Community access coordinator for the Anti-Violence Program, Nicole Engel, presents a video on domestic violence at the 2018 “It happens to us” event. (Reporter Archives)

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