On Domestic Violence in GLBTQI Relationships
The first time Raymond E.* told me about his “literally hurtful” relationship with Jake C.*, his boyfriend of over five years, he had chain marks all over his legs – the marks that would be left if you were hit by the metal chains Filipinos usually use as leash for dogs. These are the “results of his love for me,” he said to me, smiling sardonically.
Alas, no, he didn’t want any help from me; he just wanted to have someone to talk to, particularly since none in his family knew of his sexuality, much more of their relationship, so “I’m on this all by myself,” he said.
Raymond E., disappointingly, did not break up with Jake C. In fact, Raymond E. was the one to insist that “maybe, I deserved what I got – I shouldn’t do things that displeases (Jake C.).” He, thus, “should just put up with what (he) does to me; try to make this relationship work.”
Not surprisingly, he visited me again.
And at different times, he sported different “symbolizations of his affectation to me,” Raymond E. said, referring to (at one time or another), a huge bruise on his cheek, puffy lips, slap marks, scratch marks, swollen eyes, and yes, more chain marks (not just on his legs, but also on his arms, on his back, and on his neck).
And still he chose – still chooses – to stay with Jane C.
This is, of course, a classic case of a domestically violent relationship.
And it happens among GLBTQIAs, too.
On February 14, 2009, when loving – not hurting – was supposed to be celebrated on St. Valentine’s day, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article highlighting the increase of domestic violence in the country.
Then, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center Chief Superintendent Yolanda Tanigue, there remained an “alarming” increase in the incidence of domestic violence (in an observed period in 2008). In fact, from 6,647 incidents of violence against women in 2007, the PNP WCPC reported 7,864 cases in 2008. These include incidents involving violations of Republic Act 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004), which increased from 2,387 cases in 2007 to 3,599 cases in 2008.
There was also a noted increase in crimes against children, from 6,688 in 2007 to 8,588 in 2008. And of these cases, 2,981 cases involved rape, 1,450 physical injuries; 876 acts of lasciviousness; and 229 incestuous rapes.
It is no wonder that the Amnesty International, in a report filed this time in the Philippine Star, noted that domestic violence is still “pervasive” in the Philippines despite the passage of a law that supposedly prohibits violence against women and children.
“Domestic violence in our country remains pervasive despite an anti-violence against women and children law. Stories of women who courageously broke their silence about domestic violence show that protection by government from violence of husbands or other intimate partners has not completely eradicated traumatic experiences in the family,” Aurora Corazon Parong, section director of AI-Philippines, was quoted as saying.
In Breaking the Silence, Seeking Justice in Intimate Partner Violence in the Philippines, a report released by AI-Philippines and Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women, it was noted that while RA 9262 is a significant law for women because many of its provisions prohibit discrimination and violence against women, especially those in an intimate relationship, there remain many loopholes in the implementation of the law. “Protection of women’s rights does not end with the enactment of a law. It needs a follow through in implementation,” Parong said.
That domestic violence is an encompassing concern goes without saying.
Citing cases from various sources, the American Bar Association noted that, among others: nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes from Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, 2000); approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually (Tjaden & Thoennes from Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, 2000); and intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women, and 3% for men in 2001 (Rennison, 2003).
Worth noting is the occurrence of violence in among men and women.
And with this, worth pointing out is the occurrence violence not just in heterosexual relationships, but within same sex partnerships, too.
Again citing cases from various sources, the American Bar Association noted that, among others: 11% of lesbians reported violence by their female partner and 15% of gay men who had lived with a male partner reported being victimized by a male partner (Tjaden,2003); there are significantly more intimate partner violence among same sex relationships than opposite-sex cohabitants – among women, 39.2% of the same-sex cohabitants and 21.7% of the opposite-sex cohabitants reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a marital/cohabiting partner at some time in their lifetime (op cit., Tjaden & Thoennes); and some 15.4% of same-sex cohabiting men reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked by a male partner (10.8% such violence by a female partner) (ibid.).
As if these citations are not disturbing enough, there are other figures worth mentioning, e.g. from 25% to 33% of gay and lesbian couples (same as the heterosexual couples) encounter domestic violence (Barnes, 1998); and from 50,000 to 100,000 lesbians, and 500,000 gay men are battered every year (Murphy, 1995).
Worth pinpointing at this point is the absence of data that is Philippine-centric.
Thus, while Raymond E. should actually already be a part of the figures, he remains invisible in the absence of focus of other (i.e. non heterosexual) groups experiencing domestic violence.
This is, of course, reflective of the general absence of homosexual existence.
The experiences of heterosexuals cannot – and should not – be underestimated, what with same-sex battering mirroring heterosexual battering both in type and prevalence. Similarities include: the kind of violence (e.g. physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or verbal); the purpose of abuse (to get and maintain control and power over one’s partner); isolation of the abused (feels unable to do anything right); and the cyclical fashion of abuse (does not happen all the time, with unpredictability a part of the tyranny).
Obviously, domestic violence can be lethal (irrespective of the victim), with the lethality increasing in the presence/use of substance abuse.
However, same-sex victims are more disadvantaged. Mainly, they receive fewer protections (Barnes, 1998); and same-sex batterers use an extra form of abuse, i.e. the threat of “outing” their partner to family, friends, employers or community (Lundy, 1993).
There remain numerous misconceptions about domestic violence, thus the improper dealing with those affected by it. One such way of seeing is – particularly in same-sex/gender relationships – the association of domestic violence with a sexual behaviour, i.e. some version of sadomasochism.
According to An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection (aardvarc.org), “Domestic violence is not sexual behavior. In S&M relationships, there is usually some contract or agreement about the limits and boundaries of the behavior, even when pain is involved. Domestic violence involves no such contract. Domestic violence is abuse.”
Often, too, domestic violence is deemed to happen to the disadvantaged, e.g. poor, uneducated, et cetera – a misconception since “domestic violence is a non-discriminatory phenomenon; victims as well as violent and abusive offenders come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, et cetera.”
On this, Raymond E. may well serve as a good example, considering that he can be classified as the breadwinner in their relationship, with Jake C. living in his house, being fed by him, et cetera. In his own words: “Hindi naman ako nagkukulang sa kanya – pinapakain ko siya, nagbabayad ako ng bahay, ng kuryente, ng tubig, at kung anu-ano pa…”
Socially constructed roles do not help deal with the problem, too – e.g. when a man fights another man, as happens in a gay relationship, it is deemed a battle between equals. This, states aardvarc.org, is a fallacy, with the role of those in the relationship not defined by their sex/gender identification.
The social construction of the norms also affects women – e.g. women, by and large still deemed a weaker sex, are not considered as violent as men. Again, this is fallacious, states aardvark.org, since “women can be as violent and as dangerous as men.”
The general absence of GLBTQI presence in the laws of the land is a disservice to the community, too. Sans the protection afforded heterosexual victims of domestic violence (e.g. the Philippine National Police has Women’s and Children’s Desks in all police stations to support women having such concerns as domestic abuse), GLBTQIs may choose to stay in abusive relationships.
This is worsened in the presence of children of GLBTQIs, with the abused possibly staying in abusive relationships to be with their children especially if the law will side with the abuser in case of separation (e.g. biological connection of abuser to children, and non-recognition of abused partner as carer of the children as far as the law is concerned).
Aardvarc.org wants to incessantly highlight the importance of knowing that, yes, this – too – affects GLBTQIs as much, if not worse, than heterosexuals.
Interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) chairperson Hope Abella noted that based on the Philippine National Police (PNP) findings, domestic violence is “one of the major factors in the development of sexual offenders.” “A major cause, one of the major causes, in fact, is domestic violence. So for us to address sexual abuse (we need) to address domestic violence,” Abella was quoted as saying.
Based on PNP statistics, there are very common parallelisms between the abuse of women and children. Waxing positive, PNP’s Tanigue said victims are now more willing to file a complaint with the police because of the Women’s and Children’s Desks set up in all police stations. “They have learned to report and when we launched our information campaign, we have been telling them of police visibility, especially how our policewomen are now out in the streets. They are no longer afraid to report. They are with us now,” she was quoted as saying.
This, though, only emphasizes how efforts available are focused (thus limited) to heterosexuals.
And so GLBTQIs are left to fend for themselves.
Abella was right when she said that to eradicate domestic violence and child abuse, a changing in the perception of society towards women as the “weaker sex” is needed. As an appended sex (i.e. supposed “third sex”, the assumed weakest of the three), a lot of work still has to be done to better serve GLBTQIs.
Raymond E. and Jake C. are still together.
And the beating still continues.
But Raymond E. does not discuss it any longer.
His bruises do the talking for himself.
And will remain so until GLBTQIs actually get the recognition they (we) deserve.
*NAMES CHANGED AS REQUESTED TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF THE PERSON INVOLVED
Barnes, A. (1998). It’s Just a Quarrel. American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 25.
Lundy, A. (1993). Abuse That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Assisting Victims of Lesbian and Gay Domestic Violence in Massachusetts. 28 New English Literary Review, 273.
Murphy, M. (1995). Queer Justice: Equal Protection for Victims of Same-Sex Domestic Violence. 30 Val. U. L. Rev. 335.
Philippine Daily Inquirer. Domestic Violence Up in ’08.
Rennison, C,M. (2003). Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief: Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001. U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 197838.
Tjaden P. & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence. U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 181867.
Tjaden P. & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781.
Tjaden, P. (2003). Symposium on Integrating Responses to Domestic Violence: Extent and Nature of Intimate Partner Violence as measured by the National Violence Against Women Survey. 47 Loy. L. Rev. 41, 54.