Bewitched, Battered and Bewildered

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As news of Chris Brown and Rihanna’s alleged altercation comes to light, it reminds me of the many gay men and women who suffer from abuse at the hands of their partners.

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Nearly one out of four gay relationships are abusive and only one-third gets reported. This is due in part to the reluctance of the victims to report the incident to the police in fear of insensitivity.

Violence toward gay men and women need not only be physical but also emotional abuse.

One particular case involved a gay couple who were together for five years. After a heated argument about money, the financially secure one decided that he would no longer allow himself to be the receptive partner during anal sex. This confused his partner who was unable to make the connection between money and sex. In an attempt to compensate, he asked how he should approach becoming a bottom after all these years. To which his angry partner replied, “Practice on this,” and then threw a dildo at him.

Another patient said his boyfriend would make fun of his career in front of friends. He humiliated him for not being able to contribute equally toward the couple’s monthly expenses. For some, abuse can take the form of intimidation or even the threat of violence; other abusive partners find the way to control their victims is by using economic deprivation.

I treated a couple where one refused to give his partner money even though he was out of work. He agreed to pay for meals and fit the bills, but the unemployed partner was not allowed to have any money of his own. This left him feeling kept, like a pet. When they argued about this, his partner simply said, “If you don’t like it, then get out.”

There are a myriad of reasons why people abuse their loved ones: some psychiatrists believe there is a link to having been abused as a child or having been raised in a household where one parent was abused.  Substance abuse, mental illness, stress and even poverty can lead someone to take extreme actions with their partners.

No one deserves abuse. It is important to remember that abuse comes in many different forms and that it is cyclical. Ultimately, it is a form of control, and the victim is rendered alone, isolated and afraid. Know that your actions never warrant someone’s rage, and their violence is not your fault.  If you are being abused, please seek out help through your doctor, your local LGBT center or the GMHC.

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One Comment

  1. Tracey
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sending this message.

    I was 19 and my partner was 36 when the belittling, self-esteem lowering mental abuse began, and 22 when the physical abuse began (and when I exited the relationship)

    People often think that gay men aren’t abusive in the traditional wife-beater, sleeping with the enemy kind of way, but I see unhealthy behavior all the time, we just call it something else sometimes.

    Thanks again for clarifying what some might overlook, and just the assertion/ attitude that you don’t have to put up with that Shit! It’s powerful.


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