Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abuse in gay relationships? Apparently not.

Just when we thought we broke through one barrier, it seems someone was quick to put up another. Last week, House lawmakers in South Carolina approved a bill (H. 3543) that will require schools to have policies in place for reporting and responding to dating violence. This bill also requires that schools provide information about teen dating violence to students and their parents—great news, right?! Well no, not exactly. Unfortunately, someone felt it was important to explicitly state on the bill that this ONLY relates to heterosexual relationships. Gays need not apply.

As if making this change to the bill weren’t bad enough, the most disturbing thing about this change is that the bill itself did not make any reference to gay relationships, or any specific type of relationship, for that matter. On May 13, 2009, the bill stated the following:

“'Dating partner' means a person, regardless of gender, involved in an intimate relationship with another, primarily characterized by the expectation of affectionate involvement whether casual, serious, or long term.”

Apparently this wasn’t enough for Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) who requested the amendment and so on May 14, 2009 the bill was changed to the following:

“'Dating partner' means a person involved in a heterosexual dating relationship with another.”

To go out of one’s way to make this point clear is such an overt act of discrimination. Rep. Delleney simply said he did not want children to be taught about gay relationships. It seems he didn’t get the memo which states that the bill is simply intended to teach (ALL youth) about healthy relationships and recognizing abuse. I wonder what he’d say to parents of abuse victims in same-sex relationships—“Sorry, your child just isn’t covered by our policy.”

It’s also mind boggling that one of the original bill sponsors had no issue with the suggested amendment. Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) said she wants every child to be protected but that dating violence occurs with more frequency in heterosexual relationships. We have news for you, Rep. Joan Brady…abuse does happen in gay relationships, more than you and I could ever imagine. Oh, and it also happens to the rich, poor, black, white and everyone in between, below, above and beyond.

It’s probably true that we don’t have alarming statistics to show the high rates in which dating violence occurs in gay relationships. But perhaps we’re not asking the right questions. Perhaps we’re not doing a good job of addressing the issue within the LGBTQ community which, by the way, faces greater challenges when seeking help than victims in heterosexual relationships.

And if this is how people in power are likely to respond when they have the opportunity to do something about it, then how could we ever expect victims in gay relationships to report the abuse? Thanks to an obviously callous lack of support, we may never really know how bad it really is. Abuse happens and it happens a lot. Abuse does not discriminate, but sadly people do.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dating Abuse on T.V??

Today I stumbled upon PADV’s Teen Scene blog (it’s great, you should check it out!) and was struck by an entry that they had written about the Death Cab for Cutie song “I will possess your heart .” If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to it here and check out PADV’s blog for the lyrics. Among other things, the post talks about how at first listen, the song is catchy, beautiful and melodic. However, when you listen closely you notice that the lyrics paint a picture of someone who is possessive and who, at times, acts like a stalker.

I remember, distinctly, that a few weeks ago, I had heard “I will possess your heart” on KROQ and had thought “these lyrics are creepy/this guy sounds like a stalker/abuser.” I thought that. And then I almost immediately forgot it, until I read the PADV teen scene blog.

The blog also had a post about The Hills and abusive relationships, which made me think about all the instances of abusive behavior I had seen on t.v. lately. That made me think about how a lot of the time, signs of abusive relationships and abuse in general (especially the verbal and emotional kind) go unnoticed on tv, music and in all forms of entertainment. It’s important to recognize abuse as abuse when you see it, whether it be on t.v or in real life, because whether we want to admit it or not, the things that we see around us affect the way we act. Being aware of abuse on t.v. and in the media can help us to better recognize and protect ourselves from abuse in our lives and around us.

Can you think of a song, tv show or movie where abusive behaviors are featured? Do you think seeing abuse in the media has an effect on the viewer? Tell me what you think.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

But what can I do?

When I tell people about the work Break the Cycle does, they will often disclose a story about how domestic and dating violence has affected their lives. Sometimes they share a story about abusive relationships they’ve experienced themselves, but more often than not, they’ll talk about the experiences of someone they care about. The common theme in many of those stories is the feeling of helplessness.

When you care about someone, of course you want to do everything you can to protect them from hurt or harm. But when that harm is coming from an abusive relationship, it can feel especially overwhelming trying to figure out what you can do to help.

One really important thing to remember is that just by being there for your friend, you are already doing a lot. Experiencing abuse can be a very lonely time for someone, so simply by being present and supportive you can help lighten that sense of aloneness.

The hard part about being there for someone is that you can’t assume that you know what is best for their specific situation. You can and should be honest about your concerns for their well-being and safety. But at the end of the day, any decisions about the relationship have to be made by the person in that relationship – they are the expert on their own situation and it is important to respect that.

While you can’t take responsibility for your friends’ decisions, you can help support them as they move forward. That support might be providing them with information about abuse and healthy relationships – this can help them think about whether their relationship is as healthy as they deserve. You can also connect them to resources in their community (like Break the Cycle) who can help them think about their options, legal rights, and safety planning. Sometimes support can just be encouraging your friends to continue doing the things they love and seeing the people they love, outside of their relationship. And of course, if you ever believe that they are in immediate danger – don’t hesitate to call 911.

Remember, it is never easy to leave an abusive relationship. There can be a lot of factors that make it difficult for someone to seek help, or leave their abusive partner. Having a supportive, compassionate and thoughtful friend like you can make a world of difference for someone experiencing abuse.


To find out more about teen dating abuse click here