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Combat domestic violence in LGBTQ community

November 11, 2018

If you didn’t know, last month was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s the month during which the city of San Antonio and our partner agencies try our hardest to highlight that domestic violence is still among us and that San Antonio can and should do more to combat it.

As a councilman, I have made domestic violence awareness, and our community response to domestic violence, a key priority. I’m happy to report that City Hall has doubled-down on our commitment to fight this epidemic and help survivors. Our Police Department, our Fire Department and our delegate agencies are equipped to tackle this important work, and they are all eager and ready to do the heavy lifting.

We all know that domestic violence is not new. We know the numbers are outrageous: nationally, 1 in 3 women is a victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. We’re all aware that the impact of intimate partner violence can be lasting and devastating. Also, most of us know domestic violence has a direct relationship to substance abuse, mental health problems, homelessness, health outcomes, unemployment and PTSD among veterans.

Raising awareness is an important tool in our efforts to reduce domestic violence. However, there is one facet of this pervasive problem that often goes unaddressed and about which too many people have no awareness. I’m referring to intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community.

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It’s ubiquitous and haunts every demographic. But I’m particularly alarmed by the rates of LGBTQ intimate partner violence. It’s time to have a conversation about this problem.

Intimate partner violence in LGBTQ relationships, according to experts and studies, occurs at rates higher than those among the general population. LGBTQ partners are more likely to experience severe physical violence than their straight counterparts. Psychological abuse comes in different forms for LGBTQ victims, too, particularly when we consider threats to “out” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a means of control. We can and must do something to address this ugly truth that our LGBTQ neighbors face all too often.

Reliable data regarding this issue was almost nonexistent 10 years ago. That has changed. Today, we know more about this topic. In 2012, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women experienced physical violence, stalking or rape as a result of intimate partner violence.

From the same survey, 26 percent of gay men, 37 percent of bisexual men and 29 percent of heterosexual men reported the same experience as a result of intimate partner violence.

In addition, a 2012 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an organization dedicated to reducing violence and its impacts on the LGBTQ community in the United States, found that fewer than 5 percent of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought protective orders from the courts.

I’m very grateful that my City Council colleagues and Mayor Ron Nirenberg are as dedicated as I am to the fight against domestic violence. This is evidenced by the increased funding we’ve dedicated to combating this crisis in our 2019 budget. But we can’t do this alone, which is why I will be proposing to dedicate a portion of the recently allocated 2019 budget to combat LGBTQ intimate partner violence and have asked the mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee to weigh in.

My hope is that we can also recruit you to join us in this effort, and that you will continue to learn more about how you can help. One way you can start is by spreading knowledge when you share this article with friends and family. After all, a community that knows more is a community that can do more.

If you are a victim or if you know a LGBTQ victim, here are some excellent and zero-cost resources: the Bexar County Battered Women & Children’s Shelter; the Domestic Violence Hotline; the Anti-Violence Project; Forge; and the Network La Red.

Manny Pelaez is the San Antonio city councilman for District 8. He is also the immediate past general counsel for the Battered Women & Children’s Shelter.

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