In the past year, we have seen significant legislative changes on a national level that will positively impact survivors of partner abuse (also known as Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence). The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to cover the cost of screening and counseling for partner abuse without co-pays or cost-sharing for the survivor, and the newly passed Violence Against Women Act 2013 includes provisions that that will improve access to services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of partner abuse. While we are hopeful at the Violence Recovery Program (VRP) that these changes will assist partner abuse survivors, we are also acutely aware that partner abuse is a problem that is not going away.
The VRP compiles statewide statistics on domestic violence in order to more accurately reflect the magnitude and nature of these crimes and how they affect the LGBTQ community. The statistics are also included in the annual report of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). The NCAVP this month released its 2012 Report on Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the U.S. You can download the full report here. http://avp.org/about-avp/national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs
In 2012, the VRP documented 60 new cases of partner abuse, 62% of which were reported by lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer identified survivors (15% of reports came from heterosexual survivors and the rest of the reports of partner abuse came from survivors who did not identify their sexual orientation) and 8% of reporters identified as transgender.
Overall, the VRP documented an 18% increase in reports of partner abuse in 2012, with particular growth in the number and proportion of reports from people of color. The number of reports of partner abuse from people of color rose from 12 in 2011 to 21 in 2012, which is an increase from 24% to 35% of total reports. Also significant is that 15% of total reports of partner abuse were from Latin@ survivors in 2012. This rise in reports from Latin@s and people of color may be contributed to a collaborative that the VRP spearheaded in 2011, entitled TOD@S (Transforming Ourselves through Dialogue Action and Services). The TOD@S Project was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Violence against Women, and it has allowed the VRP to build a formal partnership with three local organizations to address LGBTQ partner abuse in Black and Latin@ communities. Under this grant, the VRP hired a bilingual Spanish/English project manager and counselor in 2012 who provides direct individual and group services to Black and Latin@ survivors and who coordinates with the partnering organizations to enhance outreach to Black and Latin@ communities. The addition of a VRP service provider and the community partnerships has increased the capacity of the VRP to serve survivors who are LGBTQ people of color, and we expect that reports of partner abuse in LGBTQ communities of color will continue to rise in the coming months and years.
The VRP recognizes the unique way that societal oppression, such as homo/bi/trans-phobia, heterosexism, racism and anti-immigrant bias, can be employed as tactics of abuse against LGBTQ people of color and immigrants. This can include threats of outing about sexual orientation, gender identity, and immigration status by the abusive person. Survivors who are LGBTQ people of color also face discrimination and disbelief when seeking help from law enforcement and service providers that may not be culturally affirming to their identities.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the month of October, Fenway Health’s Violence Recovery Program commits to continue providing access to culturally informed counseling and advocacy for LGBTQ survivors of partner abuse and to engaging those communities who are most vulnerable.