Domestic violence is a major problem among male same-sex couples, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that 46 percent of 320 men (160 couples) reported some form of intimate partner violence — including physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse and controlling behavior — in the last year.
“If you just looked at physical and sexual violence in male couples, it’s about 25 to 30 percent, roughly the same as women,” Rob Stephenson, professor of nursing and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, told Science Daily. “We’re stuck in this mental representation of domestic violence as a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while that is very important, there are other forms of domestic violence in all types of relationships.”
Researchers stressed that violence in same-sex couples could also hinder HIV prevention efforts. Men in abusive relationships often find it harder to negotiate condom use when they have sex. Also, the study showed that violence is often linked to internalized homophobia. The study says that a man struggling with his identity may lash out at his partner physically and emotionally. Stephenson compared it to heterosexual men who lash out at their female partners after feeling inadequate in some way.
Most studies examining domestic violence focus only on women who experience it, or only those men who are abused in gay or bisexual relationships. The research is important, Stephenson stressed, because it debunks stereotypes about domestic violence among queer men.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, intimate partner violence among LGBTQ people is often not part of the mainstream narrative. In a 2014 survey, NCAVP did of 648 domestic violence agencies, 94 percent said they were not serving LGBTQ domestic violence survivors.
“The domestic violence system is predicated on the idea of battered women, violence against women and men as abusers,” Lisa O’Connor, deputy program officer at domestic violence advocacy organization Safe Horizon, told Mic in a 2016 article on the subject. “I don’t think it’s a blatant stigma against men. It’s part of a history of seeing domestic violence in a heteronormative way.”
The study appears in the July issue of American Journal of Men’s Health.
Warning: The story below includes descriptions of violence and murder.
It’s impossible to make sense of senseless violence. And yet so many of us have been trying to do just that over the last few days. Jose Velez. Lesandro “Junior” Guzman Feliz. Antwon Rose II. These are the names of three young men of color who were killed in separate incidents of community, gang, and police violence last week.
A harsh fact is that young black and Latino men are more likely than any other group to become victims of violent crime, according to NYC’s Vera Institute of Justice. But we don’t usually hear their stories or even learn their names. All too often, they are blamed for their own deaths. But as my colleague Brooklyn Community Program Director Kimmi Herring reminds us, “Any life lost is of the utmost value.”
Here in New York City, no one could escape the news coverage of Junior’s murder. There was video surveillance footage of the killing. It was deeply disturbing and painful to watch. I saw the footage by accident when I clicked on the #JusticeforJunior viral hashtag. I was filled with rage and grief after viewing that atrocity, as I can imagine so many others were.
As a man of color, these three tragedies brought up memories of my own, like the time I came back from college to learn my childhood friend had been stabbed and killed by another childhood friend. Why? They were “fighting” over a girl. Or that time my uncle was a victim of police violence in Massachusetts, and my concern for my mother when she got out of the car to intervene. In speaking with my colleague Sebastian Vante for this article, he shared with me his own experience of being “jumped” as a kid.
The truth is that too many boys and men of color have a story that includes violence and loss. That’s why I am proud to work for an organization that is strengthening and expanding their services for young men, recognizing our hurt and pain. Part of that commitment is having staff who reflect the community. I sat down with two colleagues who identify as men of color: Paul Barrett, Jr., Project Manager for Safe Horizon’s Enhanced Service for Boys and Young Men of Color and Sebastian Vante, Supervising Coordinator for Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project. We talked about these recent tragedies, how we can better support boys and young men of color harmed by violence, and why toxic masculinity can be a problem for many men.
These tragic deaths have fueled more conversations among boys and men of color concerning the realities of violence in our neighborhoods. As men of color who do this work, what do you want people to know?
PAUL: The people affected are more than just the young men. Their family, friends and neighborhoods are impacted. Jose left behind a fiancée and daughter. We’ve seen Junior’s mother grieve publicly. We’ve seen whole communities mourning. Part of our work is engaging families and communities in healing, such as our work with our families of homicide program.
SEBASTIEN: We have to talk about the relationship between police and communities of color. Deaths like Antwon Rose Jr., can contribute to the distrust. This is relevant as I think of Junior’s murder: Why didn’t the bodega owners call the cops? I grew up in the “hood” and I know that there can be a distrust of the police. There is this valid feeling that, “Justice isn’t for us. It’s for other people.” There can also be this mentality that “If it doesn’t involve you, mind your business.” Some of it is a survival tactic, “If I get involved, will I be harmed?”
For Junior Feliz, it was a case of mistaken identity and a gang looking for revenge. Acts of revenge like this often intentionally cause more harm in retaliation than in the first event. Why is that?
PAUL: This can be true for boys and young men regardless of socio-economic or racial identity, but there is this idea of exerting power to demonstrate manhood. I don’t know what was in the heads of those young men who killed Junior, but I imagine that in the range of options in their mind, violence felt like the only viable option. This is rooted in toxic masculinity.
Toxic and hyper-masculinity can do great harm. Talk to me more about that.
PAUL: I (heard) that the sister of one of Junior’s assailants was sexually assaulted and it was videotaped. They mistook Junior as one of the guys in the video and that’s why he was targeted. You hear that your sister is sexually assaulted and you go straight to ten [on the emotional scale]. I understand having an extreme emotional response to something like that; it’s valid and normal. But when you take that response and add the way that violence is normalized as a way to “get payback” for the harm that was done to you or a loved one, it can be a vicious cycle. This is not just true for men of color. Think about how many times you’ve seen two men arguing because one of them felt disrespected by the other. One of the most common examples I can think of are the numerous times I’ve seen a guy yell at some random person because he thought the stranger was staring at his girlfriend.
At Safe Horizon, we know that violence can be a response to a traumatic event in an effort to feel “in control.” What alternative coping strategies do you want boys and young men of color to know about?
SEBASTIEN: Experiencing violence can make anyone hypervigilant and not trusting. Too often, boys and men can live in this world in fear but it’s seen as weak for them to say “I’m scared.” Instead, that fear comes across as toughness or anger.
At Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project, we have a men’s group. We do meditation, mindfulness and grounding exercises. We often talk about separation and loss, because so many of these young men have lost family and loved ones to violence, or have been disconnected from their families. It’s a space for young men to heal and engage in conversations they may not otherwise have.
In the last group, I heard the sighs and like, “Ugh, what is this about?” when I asked them to close their eyes and do some breathing techniques. But afterwards, I looked around and asked “So, how does that feel?” So many of them said it was amazing. Part of it is just exposure. They may have assumptions that something will not work or will not be helpful to them, until they actually experience it themselves.
PAUL: Storytelling can be an extremely helpful coping strategy. It is a powerful way to gain a level of empowerment over experiences with harm or trauma. Storytelling can be a way of healing, to make sense of what happened to you. A key component of healing is reestablishing a sense of hope and seeing your life outside of harm. Storytelling can help a person understand and take control of their story. “Who was I before this? How has this experience affected me? Who do I want to be?”
We know that many people, including boys and young men of color, may walk around with unaddressed trauma: witnessing or experiencing violence, abuse, and racism. How can we better support them?
SEBASTIEN: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for young men to talk in. So many young men are waiting for someone to say, “How are you?” and really mean it, not just pleasantries. I see this in my own work with the young men at Streetwork. I ask them, “How are you?” and they usually respond, “Good.” Then I pause and ask again, “No, how are you? Tell me.” And the faucet opens and they start to communicate how they are really feeling.
PAUL: There needs to be a more equitable dispersal of government resources to communities of color. Therapeutic resources, social services, and financial resources can all provide more options for young people who are managing stress and trauma. Providing more viable options like these may also direct a person away from situations that leave them exposed to harm. These resources are readily available in most white communities. Yes, there are poor white communities that also lack access. But at a disproportionate rate, these resources are not as accessible to communities of color. When you look at the intersection of class and race, people of color are more likely—even if they are not poor—to live in less resourced communities than white people. Investing in more resources can help victims, their families and their communities to heal.
At Safe Horizon, we are committed to strengthening our programs to better support and respond to the needs of boys and young men of color (BYMOC) harmed by violence. Since 2016, we have engaged other non-profit partners so we are part of the community that responds to BYMOC harmed by crime and violence. We have worked with these partners to develop a toolkit to provide tools to those serving BYMOC including tools for engagement, trauma screening, and safety planning. Lastly, we have engaged in self-reflective and interrogative conversations about race, racism, and our own bias to better understand how we interact with young men.
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of Jose Velez, Lesandro “Junior” Guzman Feliz and Antwon Ross II. Rest in peace young men.
For help with any crime or abuse, including support for family members of homicide victims, please call our 24/7 free and anonymous Crime Victims Hotline: 1-866-689-HELP (4357).
On Tuesday, June 27th, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban. The travel ban suspends entry into the United States for certain immigrants (“green card” holders) and nonimmigrants (those seeking to enter for a temporary period such as visitors or students) who are also nationals of any one of seven countries (Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela). Five of the seven countries are predominately Muslim countries. In response, Safe Horizon’s Deputy CEO Liz Roberts has issued the following statement:
“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling upholding President Trump’s travel ban. This ban was issued under the guise of national security, but it unfairly discriminates against Muslims. The language used to justify the ban has been offensive, including both racist stereotypes and explicit religious intolerance.
The painful reality is that this ban will do real harm to victims of violence. For some victims of violence and persecution, the only means of escape is securing a visa to travel to another country. In the past, victims have applied for and obtained visas that allow them to enter the U.S., where they could then reunite with other family members or apply for protection under our immigration laws. With this avenue to safety now cut off, victims may not have any other options or any viable place to go.
At Safe Horizon, we believe that our country should provide pathways to safety for victims of violence — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or immigration status.”
Pictured is the son of a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He is proud to support his mother’s efforts to hold abusers accountable.
For over a decade, survivors, and advocates traveled to Albany to plead with lawmakers for a basic, fundamental right: to hold their abusers accountable in a court of law. Every day, every week, they advocated to change New York law so abusers can be held accountable for what they did. They not only wanted justice for themselves, but they were trying to protect our children today. These survivors deserve justice and for the New York Senate to pass the Child Victims Act.
This year, Senate Republicans have failed to hold even a single hearing on the Child Victims Act, a bill that passed with by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in the State Assembly. In their inaction, the Senate leadership failed to broaden the path to justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his conference continue to protect institutions from liability instead of aligning with survivors seeking justice.
At Safe Horizon, we are committed to seeing the Child Victims Act passed. We continue to vigorously oppose arbitrary time limits that allow abusers to run out the clock. We remain committed to advocating for this legislation during the 2019 New York State legislative session. The Child Victims Act must be brought to a vote by the Senate and ultimately passed.
Outraged and want to take action? Tweet New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and let him know you support survivors and want to see the Child Victims Act passed.
Suggested tweet: .@NYGovCuomo I am disappointed that the Child Victims Act was not passed this year. During this #MeToo movement, you must strengthen laws for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I call on you to pass the CVA next year–survivors deserve more time to seek justice in NY’s courts.
Brooklyn Reporter By Paula Katinas June 22, 2018
Advocates for victims of domestic violence came out in force to testify at a City Council hearing on a bill that would provide free diapers to children of families in shelters and city-run facilities.
The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Mark Treyger, would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to provide free diapers at domestic violence shelters, childcare centers, and other service providers.
The bill was the subject of a joint hearing by the council’s Committees on Women and Government Operations on June 19.
Olga Rodriguez-Vidal, associate vice president for shelter programs at Safe Horizon, called diapers “a basic necessity,” and said they should be readily available to families in need. “The families in our domestic violence shelters want the best for their children, but have very limited financial resources,” she said.
The cost of diapers is often prohibitive to parents facing a dire financial situation, according to Treyger, who chairs the council’s Committee on Education. “No parent should ever have to choose between the cost of diapers and paying their rent or putting food on their family’s table,” he said.
The cost of diapers is a significant economic burden for many of New York’s poorest families, according to Treyger, who cited a study by the National Diaper Network, which found that a family will go through 3,000 diapers, at a cost $500, during the first year of an infant’s life.
The lack of diapers also holds parents back in the job market, Treyger said. Many childcare centers mandate that children come with their own diapers. Parents who can’t afford diapers are unable to work or attend school, he said.
There are currently no government programs providing diapers for infants. Parents cannot use Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) cards or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards to buy diapers.
Update: President Trump signed an executive order on June 20, 2018, ending his policy of separating families. However, the crisis continues as this harmful policy would merely be replaced with another profoundly harmful policy – the indefinite detention of families. Moreover, there is no plan to reunite the thousands of already separated children with their parent(s). Therefore, the information provided below (published before the issuance of the executive order) remains relevant and useful.
By Ariel Zwang
June 20, 2018
Since early May, a reported 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern U.S. border. As a mom and the CEO of Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services agency, I am deeply troubled and saddened by these recent developments. Separating a child from a safe caregiver is harmful to any child. And that harm is magnified if the child has a history of experiencing or witnessing violence, or living in a dangerous and unpredictable environment. Moreover, placing children in institutional settings without their parents can make them vulnerable to abuse here in the United States.
The painful reality is that many children and their parents or caregivers are fleeing domestic abuse, gang killings and other forms of violence in their home countries, desperately seeking a path to safety. Despite this reality, migrating is not easy as they leave behind their loved ones and communities. The journey can be long and treacherous.
Safety is one of the most fundamental human needs. And at Safe Horizon, we unequivocally believe that all people deserve a life free of violence regardless of immigration status. Yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform. But that reform must lead with humanity and an understanding of trauma.
To discuss, I sat down with two of my trusted colleagues, Deputy CEO Liz Roberts, and Director of Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project (ILP) Evangeline Chan. We talked about what makes this policy different from past immigration policies, why separating children from their parents is harmful, what we think would be a better immigration policy for survivors, the importance of asylum for survivors of domestic violence, and much more.
The U.S. Government has long been trying to address the flow of migrants coming across the southern border. How is this new policy different from past immigration policies?
EVANGELINE: In the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of families crossing the border together. The issue that arose was how to handle them. Under current laws and regulations, children arriving unaccompanied at the border are handled differently from adults—adults could be detained but children could not be held for long periods of time. Instead, children are released to sponsors or family members in the U.S. willing to take responsibility for them. When there was a “surge” of families crossing together around 2014 and 2015, the government was faced with a dilemma: what to do with the children who came with their parent(s)—process them like children or like adults? What the Obama Administration did was detain them all together in family detention centers. This was also controversial: immigration advocates generally oppose detention, especially of children, and there were reports of substandard conditions, inadequate care, abuse and denial of access to legal counsel. But, at least families were kept together, which is really important to a child’s well-being.
What is new under President Trump is this “zero tolerance policy” and the separation of families. Our government is now prosecuting anyone crossing over illegally – even if they are seeking asylum. The adults are being criminally charged and detained separately from their children. This means that children, some reportedly only months-old,are being detained without their parent(s) to care for them while they follow the track of eventually being released to shelters or foster care.
LIZ: One of the things that really troubles me about the way the policy is being implemented is that it appears that many children are being placed in large, institutional facilities. We know from years of experience in the child welfare field that this practice is incredibly damaging. Young children should never be in institutional settings. The lack of a consistent caregiver is incredibly harmful to their development. And they’re really vulnerable to abuse in these types of settings.
Let’s talk about the children who are being separated. What impact could separation have on them?
LIZ: Children’s healthy development depends on secure attachment to a consistent, nurturing caregiver. We’ve known this for 70 years. That secure attachment to one or more caregivers is what allows a child to have the confidence to explore the world, to learn, to develop both social and emotional competence and their full cognitive potential.
One thing that we know about childhood trauma is that the cumulative impact of multiple traumatic events is much, much worse than just one traumatic experience. We’re talking about children here who have lived in neighborhoods and communities where there was a lot of violence, where they felt unsafe, where their parents felt unsafe. But at least they had their caregivers as a source of protection and reassurance. By now removing a child from their parent, we’re adding another potentially traumatic event. It greatly increases the likelihood that these children will have lifelong struggles.
And what are some of the long-term struggles?
LIZ: We know from the ACEs study and other research that trauma increases the risk of poor educational outcomes, unemployment, substance abuse, chronic health issues, depression, and PTSD. We also know from many years of research that the best way to prevent those outcomes is for a parent or caregiver to be supported in helping the child feel safe again.
Many young children are referred to our Counseling Center because they have witnessed violence or been physically or sexually abused. Our approach is always to work with caregiver and child together because we know that the caregiver’s ability to help the child regulate their emotions and to reestablish a sense of security is the most important thing for a child’s healing.
EVANGELINE: And this is a compelling reason why we should not be separating families. Children require special treatment.
What would be a better policy?
LIZ: For starters, the policy should be to keep families together unless there is a clear instance where the parent is a threat to the child. And I would hope for us to have a compassionate immigration policy where we create avenues for families fleeing danger to enter the U.S. safely and be given thoughtful consideration for temporary or permanent residency here.
EVANGELINE: I absolutely agree. Detention is not the answer unless a person is a flight risk or threat to the public’s safety. There are alternatives to keeping track of immigrants that the U.S Government should utilize, such as supervised check-ins.
At Safe Horizon, we have an anti-racist framework. If we look at this recent policy with that lens, we see that this country has a history of immigration policies that create additional barriers and hardships for people of color. How do you see this new policy, given the historical context?
EVANGELINE: The Administration claims it is deterrence. However, this policy affects mostly Mexican and Central American crossers (nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), many of whom are fleeing for their lives and coming to the U.S. to seek asylum. Turning them away or in any way “deterring” them from seeking refuge here is contrary to our obligations under international law, which requires us not to return a person to their home country if they fear persecution there.
LIZ: This policy is creating more barriers for survivors of violence from these countries, and it unfairly targets Latinos/Latinx. It’s disheartening, racist, and misguided.
Many of the individuals migrating are fleeing violence and seeking safety through asylum. At Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project (ILP) what are some of the common reasons clients are seeking asylum and how have you seen it improve their lives?
EVANGELINE: A lot of the individuals and families we help to apply for asylum have suffered gang-based or gender-based violence. When we are able to successfully obtain asylum for a survivor, it essentially saves their lives. It grants them protection. They can live and work here lawfully. They can be reunited with their family. They have a pathway to permanent resident status and citizenship. They can begin to rebuild their lives with stability and security.
LIZ: Asylum has been an important avenue to safety for so many survivors of horrifying violence and abuse. We were also deeply troubled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent decision to create significant new barriers for individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing domestic or gang violence in their home countries.
For immigrant communities viewing this news and feeling more frightened to seek help from non-profits or government entities, especially if they may be victims of violence themselves, what is your message to them? How can Safe Horizon help?
EVANGELINE: I want the immigrant community to know that we are fighting hard for you. We hear and share your concerns. We are doing all we can to fight back against these dangerous and harmful policies and we are not giving up. At ILP, we can help you seek safety and protection under the immigration laws. We are here for you.
LIZ: I want immigrant victims of violence to know that we stand with you today and always. Always. At Safe Horizon, we will continue to defend and fight for your humanity and safety.
At Safe Horizon, we firmly believe that a person’s legal status should not be a barrier to their ability to seek help, obtain justice, and live a life free from violence. To reach Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project, please call: 718-943-8632 or visit the webpage.
CNN June 21, 2018
CNN’s Erin Burnett meets a domestic violence survivor and mother who found safety at one of our eight domestic violence shelters.
When people in a same-sex relationship fight, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “It’s just two guys fighting. Let them figure it out.” Or “Her girlfriend hit her. Sometimes girls fight like that.” But abuse is different than a fight. Domestic violence is one person trying to exert power and control over another. It’s dangerous, and it often escalates over time.
Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community Exists at the Same Rate as Straight Relationships and Deserves our Attention
So often, we hear loved ones of domestic violence victims say things like “I had no clue this was happening. I wish I had known so I could have helped. I wish I had paid closer attention.” Domestic violence thrives in silence. According to a study by domestic violence advocacy organization NoMore.org, 60% of Americans say they know a victim of domestic violence, while two out of three Americans have never talked about the issue with their friends. But the statistics are loud and clear: according the Center for Disease Control, one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. And two in five lesbians and one in four gay men will be a victim in their lifetime.
What perhaps is even more tragic than the silence and stigma that surrounds domestic violence in the LGBTQ community is the severe lack of supports for those courageous enough to seek help. The current service models simply do not address the unique needs of LGBT people adequately. Although federal law now requires domestic violence shelter providers to accommodate LGBT survivors, access remains limited for many reasons.
One of those reasons, as my colleague Liz Roberts, deputy CEO of Safe Horizon tells me, is that “much of the government funding to address domestic violence is geared toward families. That means we have fewer resources for childless survivors. About 40% of victims who call New York City’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline seeking shelter are singles — but they’re the most difficult to place, because most of the beds go to survivors with children.”
But Many LGBTQ Folks Don’t Have Children – so What Happens?
LGBTQ domestic violence survivors who need immediate shelter may first try and stay with friends. The issue here is that the LGBTQ population is small and our circles tend to be interconnected. And in abusive relationships, abusers will often isolate victims from friends and family.
This was true for Terrance*, a gay Safe Horizon client who sought refuge with mutual friends. Although they wanted to help, eventually they asked Terrance to leave because they were also friends with Terrance’s abusive ex and didn’t want to pick sides.
Terrance found himself with no choice but to enter a homeless shelter where he witnessed violence and, as a result, felt unsafe and very depressed. “I was seeking out someone to talk to,” he said. “I needed counseling. I was trying to inform [the shelter], ‘Look, here’s my order of protection. I’m a domestic violence victim. I need something a little more where I can be alone.’ It’s bigger than just me being homeless. I need someone to talk to. I was crying inside … in a really rocky space financially, no money, no friends, no one to talk to, and afraid. I didn’t know where this guy is going to find me. I don’t wish it upon anyone.”
Terrance was eventually placed in a domestic violence shelter at Safe Horizon, where, he says, he got his confidence back and was able to access the supportive services he needed. At Safe Horizon, we partner with the New York City Anti-Violence Project to make our domestic violence shelters accessible to LGBTQ survivors.
Domestic Violence is Real, and it is Most Certainly an Urgent LGBTQ Issue
You may be asking, ‘What can I do if I find out a friend is an abusive relationship?’ First off, believe them. Don’t minimize their claims. Take what they are saying seriously. Most important, understand that domestic violence is complicated. Don’t force them to call the police or put pressure on them to leave the relationship. That may not be the choice they want or are ready to make. Instead, let them know they have your support and recommend they speak to an expert who can help them better understand the options available to them.
Also, donate to organizations like Safe Horizon that are on the ground supporting victims of domestic violence.
And if you believe you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s OK to reach out for help or do what feels safest for you. You absolutely deserve support regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity.
As a man who identifies as gay, I know how debilitating living in silence can be. No one should have to suffer in silence because of abuse.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence in need of help, call Safe Horizon’s anonymous domestic violence hotline at (800) 621-HOPE (4673).
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.
Photo of Streetwork Project fashion show by New York Times photographer Vincent Tullo
By Jimmy Meagher
June 15, 2018
I have worked for Safe Horizon since 2008, and I have met with many survivors who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, transgender, and gender non-conforming. For many of these survivors, the partners who hurt them used their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to further isolate or control them. Some survivors feared being outed, some feared being arrested by the police, some feared deportation, some worried that they would no longer be able to access the spaces where they felt most at home, and some hid who they were when they went into shelter out of fear of being assaulted by other residents. LGBTQ+ survivors, especially queer and trans people of color, face stigma and multiple barriers to safety.
We are living in a country where at least 12 transgender people have been murdered since the beginning of 2018. Often we only hear about trans people, specifically trans women of color, as victims of murder and abuse. The murder of trans and queer people, frequently at the hands of an intimate partner, is a crisis and a national stain. We must work together to prevent these senseless and despicable murders. Helping survivors is about healing. But it must also be about ensuring that queer and trans people, especially people of color, can thrive, achieve success, and live up to their full value and potential. It requires dismantling the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and classist systems and structures that value certain lives over others.
It is still a radical act to live openly LGBTQ+ and proud in America and in this world. It is still a radical act for queer folks to join together, to dance, to live, and to love in public. And it is somehow still radical for queer and trans people to just try to survive. Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled Honduras to escape the violence and hate she suffered as a trans person, died in the custody of ICE last month when she was only trying to find a better and safer life here.
Safe Horizon tries to create a safer space for LGBTQ+ survivors of crime and abuse by training and supporting staff on cultural competency, the necessity of using inclusive language, and the unique and diverse needs and obstacles facing LGBTQ+ communities. Safety planning and counseling for LGBTQ+ clients is not one-size-fits-all; we take the lead from each and every client when safety planning and providing support. When meeting with a survivor, we also remain mindful of the language we use and refrain from making assumptions about their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The quickest way a counselor can make a survivor feel unsafe and unheard is to misgender them or their partner.
It’s been two years since the mass shooting at Pulse. The impacts of that traumatic event, an attack on LGBTQ+ people of color, are as present as ever. Violence surrounds us and fills the news from around the world each day. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, hate violence, gender-based violence, gun violence. They never end. People continue to hurt one another. What can we do?
We must work together, all of us, to make our homes, our streets, and our communities safe for everybody, not just some. We must stand behind and alongside survivors of intimate partner violence and all other forms of abuse. We must stand behind and alongside our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender non-conforming, queer, and questioning siblings. None of us will ever be truly free until we are all free.
June 13, 2018
Safe Horizon operates three 24-hour hotlines that are available seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Hotlines are staffed with advocates who offer personalized, non-judgmental support, to survivors of crime and abuse. Of the 6,000 – 9,000 calls all three hotlines receive in a month, about 85-90% are from domestic violence survivors. Kia Myrie-Edwards, Director of the Hotlines, explains how the Domestic Violence Hotline helps survivors move from crisis to confidence.
What is Your Role as Hotlines Director?
As Hotlines Director I work to improve our response to survivors. This involves working closely with advocates and team leaders to provide live coaching and skill development. We want to make sure both survivors and Hotline Advocates feel supported.
How Many Advocates are at the Hotline Per Shift?
We typically staff around 22 advocates during the day and around four people overnight, where call volume is lower.
Can you Describe Training or Onboarding Process for Hotline Advocates?
Advocates go through extensive training and it typically takes around six months to adapt to the role. They are trained to offer non-judgmental, compassionate support for survivors and spend a significant amount of time learning about all the services we offer. During the first month of training, we conduct mock phone calls to offer an example of the types of calls they will take. When an advocate starts taking live calls, a supervisor will shadow them and provide live assistance via instant messenger. Supervisors also debrief with advocates after every call, offering support as these calls can bring up a lot of emotion.
What Services do Domestic Violence Survivors Usually Look for?
Domestic Violence Hotline callers are looking for a variety of different resources. Some want to talk about their situation or receive some form of phone counseling. Other survivors are looking to move to a domestic violence shelter. We try to connect these callers to domestic violence shelters in New York City, including Safe Horizon’s eight domestic violence shelters. We also get calls from survivors who have questions about legal issues such as court processes, restraining orders, and even child custody situations. Whatever the call is about, we can refer them to an internal Safe Horizon resource, or one of our partners.
What Times During the Day or Year do Domestic Violence Hotline Calls Increase?
Survivors call when they feel safe, so we make sure to provide around-the-clock services. We noticed that survivors call more during the daytime because the abusers might have gone to work or allowed them to leave home to run errands. Survivors who call us at night want to talk about their situation, learn about their options, and possibly create a safety plan.
We also noticed an increase in calls toward the end of June and July possibly because that’s when school ends. Many survivors with children may see this as a time when they can figure out a way to leave without interrupting their child’s school schedule. Calls also spike right around New Year’s because survivors may be making New Year’s Resolutions to leave.
What is One Thing Survivors Should Know about Hotline?
You should know that you are not alone, our advocates are there 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We will support you with whatever decision you want to make. We are knowledgeable about a wide variety of services and are always there to listen. You can remember the Hotline phone number 800-621–HOPE (4673) by thinking of June 21st HOPE.
Help Support our Hotlines
In 2017 our Hotlines answered 97,228 calls from survivors in crisis. Now you can support our lifesaving services by answering the call for hope. Your support will help victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking and all forms of violence to move from crisis to confidence.