For the second time within a week I’ve dealt with a gay male domestic violence case. Over the past few years there have only been a handful that I can remember of both gay and lesbian partners involved with the court system.
In all of the male partner incidences there was alcohol involved. In all the cases the victims, (according to the police reports), took the blame for the incident and told me that it was their fault, they were drunk, they hit first, they instigated the violence. In all of the cases the files were closed except for one where both, who had been arrested were sent to anger management and then dismissed.
I have a hard time believing that, like the victims told me, it was only a case of drunken stupidity. Domestic violence is alive and well in the GLBT community and even a brief search of the web will show a lot of resources and information.
Today I found myself in a quandary. Some of the prosecutors I work with rely on me to make a recommendation and I’ve found it really hard to decide who is telling the truth, or if the victim is minimizing, or even who the victim really is. I try to explain the cycle of violence, the fact that DV is about power and control, the indicators of domestic violence. I’m also reminded that I live in the deep south where the GLBT community is not out in the open, not accepted and still discriminated against. The couples I deal with are trying to protect themselves and my fear is that someone in the relationship really is a victim, and is not getting the help they need. I am the victims advocate and I have to weigh carefully their wishes against the possibility of adding to their victimization.
I found an interesting article called “Introduction to Gay Male Domestic Violence” which perfectly described the situation I find myself in when dealing with gay male cases in the court:
A further example of the risks of being out occur when a victim has resorted to some violence to defend themselves. Merrill (1998) reported that 58% of gay males who had been victimized fought back. The police and courts are less likely to take the time to figure out who is the abuser and who is the victim, and more likely to simply assume the violence is “mutual combat” rather than abuse. Thus, the batterer may actually threaten to call the police himself, claim the victim is the abuser, and press charges against the victim. The victim could then be listed as an abuser with the county or city hall, and be further victimized.
I don’t know if I did the right thing today, I can only hope that I will never see those young men again in the courtroom and that it truly was just an isolated, alcohol induced incident. I hope that if there is any kind of violence in the relationship the victim seeks help. No one deserves to be abused.