Over dinner a couple of weeks ago, I had a dinner with a young athletic gay man. He was self-assured, confident, intelligent and handsome. The young man goes to the gym everyday. Through the course of the meal he revealed to me that he is in an abusive relationship and is with regularly physically and mentally abused by his partner of five years. That was the beginning of a long conversation about his feelings of helplessness, shame and fear of judgment from his friends.
"How can I tell anyone that I, of all people, am being beaten up by my lover? Aren't I supposed to be able to protect myself?" He continued, "He promises to stop and I love him so..." These lines could have been taken from any story of domestic violence in America. As I listened to his story, I realized that personally I was uninformed about this problem. The extent of male to male domestic abuse is shockingly widespread.
Shame and low self esteem (often resulting from their gayness) keeps many of these victims of unchecked violence from receiving help. . The man on man abuse doesn't just involve physical abuse but also mental and verbal abuse. Most are too embarrassed to seek help or don't even have the slightest idea of where to find it. Others feel so badly about themselves, their appearance, being gay, etc that they feel that this is gay life. Battered men - like battered women - feel they will never find another man like the one that is abusing them.
The National Coalition for Anti-Violence Projects (NCAV) has a site filled with stories of abuse. Here is one of them:
Two years ago, my partner, who is a cop, stabbed me. I wasn't living in Colorado at the time. I moved to another state but my ex found me a few weeks later. I moved to another state and he found me several months after that. I went to a motel for a while, hoping to wait it out, but when I went back home, he was there. That's when I came to Colorado. I don't know how, but my ex got my phone number and e-mail and kept contacting me. I moved to another city in the state and then he showed up at my home. I used the last of my money to go to a hotel and didn't know what else to do. I finally found the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. After talking through some options with an advocate, I called the police to increase their patrol around where I was, I cut off communication with my family (in case they were the ones giving my contact info to my ex) and I contacted two friends I trust. CAVP helped me get a bus ticket to another state, and am hoping this is the last time I have to move.
One of the best web sites I found for battered and shattered gay men was New York City's Anti-Violence Project (AVP). If you know of someone having a problem or even suspect it, send them the link to their site. They give some simple questions to help determine if you are in an abusive relationship. They should ask themselves if their partner ever has:
Told you who you could see or where you could go?
Told you what to wear?
Told you how you should spend your money?
Gotten in the way of your medical care?
Threatened you physically?
Pushed you, hit you, or held you down?
Threatened to tell someone that you're gay?
Forced you to have sex in unwanted ways or against your will?
Refused to have safer sex?
Disrespected your "safe words" or violated the boundaries of a "scene" (for example: S/M, Leather, Role Playing)
No matter where you live you can be helped. The AVP has a 24 hour hotline (both in English and Spanish) at 212-714-1141. In Los Angeles the LGBT Center has a major effort on man on man abuse and can be reached at 323-860-5806. If you suspect your buddies are being abused then take them to lunch, offer them support and even if they are in denial make sure you leave them with phone numbers to seek help down the road.
Most importantly make sure they know they are not alone and you are there for them.