Lesbian and gay individuals have increased the likelihood to get exposed to violence and traumatic experiences over the course of their life. These individuals are among the minority groups in the society who report high persistence and severity of physical abuse as well as sexual abuse in their childhood. In their entire life, lesbians and gay are more likely to experience violent events such as hate crimes (Hellemans et al., 2015). In their adulthood, sexual assault and intimate partner violence are prevalent among lesbian and gay couples. Because of persistence exposure to violent events, lesbian and gay usually, have double the risk of experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD).
PTSD is a severe mental illness marked by distressing memories of the traumatic event, increased sense of vigilance, emotional numbing and avoidance of objects, people or places associated with the event. This disorder is characterized by constant re-experiencing of a traumatic event. In this paper, domestic violence among lesbian and gay partners is discussed in great detail including the potential consequences and the best intervention plan to address this form of trauma.
Consequences of Domestic Violence among Lesbians/Gays
According to government and law enforcement agencies, domestic violence is one of the major public health concerns. The general population is usually accustomed to abuse and domestic violence involving partners of the opposite sex (heterosexual) engaging in aggressive acts that are both physically and mentally harmful (Fraser & Taylor, 2016). Typically, the victims in this kind of partnership involving opposite genders are often female. But widely missing and less universally recognized in the public domain is the prevalence of domestic violence among lesbian and gay couples- partners of the same sex.
According to Renzetti and Miley (2014) domestic violence among lesbian and gay couples occurs at the same rate as domestic violence witnessed among heterosexuals couples (straight couples). Unlike straight couples, lesbian and gay partners are not receiving the help they need. This has been so because most countries do not have legal provisions that protect the rights of same-sex relationships. Besides, there has been apparent failure to identify and handle appropriately domestic violence cases involving lesbian and gay partners due to limited resources available to the victims.
Victims mostly affected by this form of trauma spread across age groups but it is more prevalent in young adults. They mostly live in urban areas where they have a stable income sufficient to afford a decent lifestyle. Since there is lack of a proper framework to address domestic violence among lesbian and gay partners this trauma is such pervasive, and it subjects the victims to severe trauma that often leads to PSTD.
This trauma is complex. Lesbian and gay mostly suffer in silence because they are excluded from the mainstream society. They are both socially and legally excluded in the society, and mostly they are not universally recognized by the traditional model of domestic violence prevention and treatment programs.
As reported by Brown and Herman (2015), lesbians in intimate partnership have increased the likelihood to experience domestic violence when compared to their gay male counterparts. Therefore, according to this statistics, lesbians are more vulnerable to domestic violence.
The severity of domestic violence trauma among lesbian and gay individuals is influenced by potential family disconnection or abandonment, inadequate access to health resources, socio-cultural adversity and historical trauma (Semple et al., 2017). For instance, at adulthood most lesbian and gay individuals would have experienced a group of traumas in their childhood that increases the likelihood to engage in domestic violence with their same-sex partners.
The victims of domestic violence among lesbians and gay undergo a constant pattern of abuse which involves a vicious cycle of psychological, emotional and physical mistreatment that subject the victim with feelings of guilt, isolation, and fear. If the abuse is persistent, the victim ultimately develops severe mental illness (Semple et al., 2017). They usually suffer extreme psychological abuse as the abusers blackmail them to remain silent. Given the sexual orientation of same-sex partners, it is apparent that sexual abuse, as well as physical abuses, often takes place concurrently.
As opposed to domestic violence experienced by victims in heterosexual relationships, lesbian and gay victims experience much more torture that often subjects them to increased risk of PSTD (Brown & Herman, 2015). Victims are threatened by their batterers to avoid disclosing any form of abuse to the relevant agencies, or else their partners will inform their work colleagues, friends and family members about their sexual orientation. This is usually amplified by the fact that lesbian and gay individuals are already isolated from their friends as well as few civic rights protections are available to take care of their interests.
Even without any threats, lesbian and gay victims are usually reluctant to report domestic violence to legal authorities. They are afraid to contact relevant law enforcement agencies since they will be required to reveal their sexual orientation before they are given any help (Renzetti & Miley, 2014). Because of this fear, most victims opt to survive and tolerate such abuses.
Another major setback that makes lesbian and gay victims reluctant to report cases of domestic violence is the fear of betraying and disrespecting lesbian and gay community (Hellemans et al., 2015). They take it as a personal responsibility to show the solidarity of their colleagues by hiding their trauma because they understand any slight disclosure will inform the public that same-sex relationship is inherently dysfunctional.
Strategist of Intervention Plan
Attempts to address lesbian/gay domestic violence have faced serious challenges in the United States. This has been the case for quite a long time mainly because the universally accepted models to address domestic violence among heterosexual partners cannot be easily adopted when handling a victim abused in a same-sex relationship (Renzetti & Miley, 2014). For this reason, cases of lesbian and gay domestic violence have yet to be recognized, and a clear model developed to help address their predicament without undue victimization.
However concerted measures have been put in place over the last decade in the United States to help address prevalent cases of lesbian/gay domestic violence (Hellemans et al., 2015). The federal government has made attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. Following this acknowledgment, the authorities have been given the mandate to handle cases of violence and trauma involving lesbian and gay victims. Because authorities have had insufficient information on how to address domestic violence involving same-sex partners, it has been hard for them in the past years to come out in the open to encourage victims to seek help.
Through the involvement of federal and state government, new provisions, as well as legal interpretation of the current domestic violence laws, have been amended to include protection of rights of lesbians and gay partners (Kaschak, 2014). These provisions underscore the need to adopt a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, long-term collaboration between civil organizations and the different levels of government.
The second model that has been widely used to help address the rising cases of domestic violence among same-sex partners is the building of evidence-based advocacy and awareness programs (Semple et al., 2017). Through these programs significant attempts to raise the awareness about existing legislation that protects the rights of same-sex couples has been advanced. They have sensitized about the need by the government to provide sufficient funding to educate social service providers, and law enforcement agencies about domestic violence experienced silently by same-sex partners.
Use of these approaches has been proven to be effective because it facilitates community mobilization and behavior change communication. The victims can identify with what they are going through by learning that they are not alone as relevant agencies have been set up to help address their needs. These programmes and policies help to change social norms that tend to isolate and victimize lesbian and gay individuals in the society.
The government has used mass media and community education to help mobilize and sensitize lesbian and gay survivors to seek assistance. The survivors are encouraged to seek immediate attention to avoid escalation of the trauma. Mostly affected victims have complex needs ranging from social services, healthcare, and legal needs (Hellemans et al., 2015). Therefore, in most cases, a multi-sectoral collaboration is required to ensure the victims access these services.
Different studies indicate that the appropriate way to enhance the service response to survivors is to roll out institution-wide reforms as opposed to narrow policy reforms that do not adequately cover the needs of the survivors. These reforms may include establishing a relevant infrastructure that upholds the confidentiality and privacy of lesbian and gay individuals. Progressive support and training of staff should be provided to ensure victims receive effective rehabilitation services (Tziola, 2017). In cases where a lesbian or gay survivor has been adversely affected by the trauma, usually, they are required to be referred to other specialized care providers to receive appropriate services. For this to be successfully done referral systems and written protocols must be put in place. Survivors of domestic violence are usually assessed based on the nature of physical abuse, verbal assault, sexual abuse and severity of their mental health.
During treatment, survivors usually undergo three phases of recovery; safety and stabilization, remembrance and mourning and lastly reconnection and integration.
Safety and stabilization
The first recovery step used by most care providers to survivors of domestic violence is safety and stabilization where survivors are worked to regain mental stability and their feelings of safety. During this step, survivors are trained to learn how to accept and regain composure amid their emotional crisis. They are required to list all the possible triggers that have facilitated domestic violence so that they avoid or limit such triggers in future.
Most survivors find it hard during this stage to talk about their trauma, and therefore therapist usually requests them to write down or use any way possible to release their emotions such as running, meditation or yoga. Also at this stage, they are required to make an effort to mend the relationship and connect with family members and friends without being bothered whether such relationship discouraged them in any way (Cook-Daniels, 2017). If the abuse is still occurring survivor is encouraged to seek help on how to get away from the abuser.
Remembrance and Mourning
In this stage, survivors are encouraged to work through all of those traumatizing memories and take time to mourn. Even if survivors are still staying with their abusers, they should mourn about how the relationship should have become. At this stage, survivors have gained sufficient strength to discuss their feelings with different people. Mourning aims to allow survivors feel the emotion without allowing the emotion to trick them into feeling memories as if they are occurring in the present (Teaster & Sokan, 2016). When they have success...
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