On December 2, 2013 the Portland Herald Press reported the domestic violence homicide of Matthew Rairdon, 22, of Westbrook, Maine. Rairdon was allegedly shot to death early Saturday by Patrick Milliner of South Portland who then turned the .40 caliber Glock pistol on himself. The murder-suicide came shortly after the ending of their romantic relationship. The community mourns the loss of Rairdon, who has been described as living a life dedicated to helping people, a role model, and a person who was open, friendly, and generous.
According to a January 2013 report from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, GLBTQ communities experience domestic violence at rates equal to or greater than the general population over their lifetime.
In addition, GLBTQ people experience a number of unique barriers when attempting to access support and services when in an abusive relationship. This may include negative messages about GLBTQ people, GLBTQ communities not recognizing domestic violence as a community issue, and a lack of screening by direct services providers. Negative cultural and societal beliefs about GLBTQ people and the resulting stigma can prevent GLBTQ domestic violence survivors from accessing the support and services that they need and deserve.
Portland-Area advocates are aware of the barriers to services for GLBTQ domestic violence survivors.“What we have to be concerned about is that the LGBT community is not as comfortable in contacting domestic violence organizations as they could be,” said Lois Reckitt, Executive Director at the Portland-based Family Crisis Services, as quoted by the Portland Herald Press.
Julie Colpitts, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, was quick to reach out to GLBTQ advocates to help ensure a respectful response to the case. However, she has seen evidence of some positive systems change. She points to the awareness demonstrated by Maine law enforcement, noting that the case was immediately recognized as a gay male domestic violence homicide. She is also encouraged by the local press coverage which has emphasized that domestic violence dynamics are remarkably similar in murder-suicides regardless of the relationship.
Like other communities, the GLBTQ community has historically been reluctant to engage in a robust community dialogue about the reality of domestic violence within it. GLBTQ communities are struggling on many fronts for equal rights and equal access to services, with important issues constantly competing for community attention and prioritization. As such, domestic violence can remain invisible for many in the community, including survivors who may not realize that they are not alone and that services are available.
“This tragic event is a reminder that domestic violence is present in all communities, regardless of gender identity or sexuality,” says Curt Rogers, Executive Director of GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project. “It reminds us of the importance of supporting and talking with our family, friends, and neighbors about domestic violence. Our thoughts go out to the family, friends, and the Westbrook community that have been impacted by this loss.”
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