By Chai Jindasurat
New York City Anti-Violence Project
As we reflect during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to take a moment to lift up the work of advocates and organizers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities who have championed the cause of ending intimate partner violence (IPV) in LGBTQ communities.
Intimate partner violence is a pervasive and deadly form of violence in LGBTQ communities. Last year, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) documented 21 IPV-related homicides of LGBTQ people in 2012. NCAVP also found that roughly half of the IPV homicide victims in 2012 were men, and half were people of color. The Centers for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation found that LGB people experience intimate partner violence at similar or higher rates as non-LGB people.
LGBTQ survivors historically faced significant challenges from the criminal legal system, mainstream domestic violence support services, and even LGBTQ advocacy organizations. The criminal legal system often operates on explicitly homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and re-victimizes LGBTQ survivors; mainstream service providers deny LGBTQ survivors access to services; and many LGBTQ organizations lack experience with intimate partner violence. LGBTQ survivors living at the intersection of multiple oppressions, including LGBTQ people of color, immigrants, low-income LGBTQ people and many others, faced not just homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic obstacles but myriad of other barriers as well. We know that many of these challenges continue today.
Since the 1970s and 1980s, there have been leaders and organizations in the LGBTQ communities who have been speaking out and organizing around intimate partner violence in LGBTQ communities. These courageous people, many survivors themselves, helped form the first support groups for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence, community-based sheltering options for LGBTQ people fleeing abuse, LGBTQ-specific anti-violence programs, and literature and research on LGBTQ intimate partner violence. They did this during a time when it was illegal to be LGBTQ and being LGBTQ was considered a mental illness. They helped create dialogue in LGBTQ movements to take intimate partner violence seriously, and trained mainstream domestic violence programs to open their doors to LGBTQ people. It is this foundation and courage that led to the first ever LGBTQ-specific protections and provisions in the recently re-authorized Violence Against Women Act.
We know there is much work to be done in our efforts to end intimate partner violence in all communities. However, it is also important to pause and celebrate the legacy and resilience of the survivors, organizers, and advocates of the intimate partner violence movement. I do this by acknowledging the leadership and courage of LGBTQ people in the anti-violence movement, those who are often unsung heroes but have made the world significantly safer for LGBTQ survivors. Thank you for the gift of your work, and your legacy.
Chai Jindasurat is the Co-Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy, and the acting Coordinator of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. NCAVP is a national coalition that works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected communities. Prior to his work at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Chai worked at The Network/La Red as an LGBTQ anti-violence organizer in Boston, Massachusetts and as the Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project in Kansas City, Missouri. He is sits on the Steering Committee of the Gay Asian Pacific-Islander Men of New York, and is a former member of the Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance in Boston. Chai has been featured in local, regional, and national publications including The Huffington Post, The Advocate and The Boston Globe.