This semester, Binghamton University introduced the LGBTQ Center on campus, providing an educational and social resource for those within the community, as well as their allies. According to Kelly Clark, the LGBTQ Center director, “the purpose is to support LGBTQ students, faculty and staff in their success on campus.”
Besides providing a safe space and relevant programming, the Center is also a resource for those dealing with domestic violence.
It has been found that domestic violence occurs in the same rates in same-sex relationships as it does in straight relationships.
Domestic violence in same-sex relationships seems to stem from the relationship models that are common in U.S. culture.
“I think that part of the reason we see same-sex domestic violence is because the relationships that we know and are aware of tend to be male-female with a dominating male,” Clark said. “Other relationships may tend to mimic that kind of relationship because that is what we know.”
However, the ways that individuals dictate the power and control in their LGBTQ relationship are different than those in a straight relationship. A unique threat present in same-sex relationships is that of being outed by an abusive partner.
“Imagine a young person gets to college and develops a relationship with someone they meet and all of a sudden, in an abusive cycle, the person says, ‘If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to call home and tell your mom that you’re gay and I’m your boyfriend,’” Clark said. “If you have not come out to your family, this would be scary and make you feel forced to stay in the relationship.”
For individuals who are transgender, one partner may withhold hormones from the other, disrupting their routine in order to maintain control. Alternately, if someone identifies as a transgender woman, their partner may withhold their razor to keep them from shaving their facial hair.
“Because of this othering in society, when people are made to feel less than, broken, psychotic — ‘There is something wrong with you,’ ‘We need to pray away the gay’ [or] ‘We need to send you to counseling,’ abusers play into that as well,” Clark said. “They feed into insecurities.”
Although the ways in which a partner is abusive in LGBTQ relationships are different from those in heterosexual relationships, the abuse revolves around the same central theme.
“[It] is still definitely based on power and control,” Clark said. “I always try to tell people love is an action verb, not a feeling. It is a behavior.”
The LGBTQ Center is a safe space for students to disclose information. Clark says the Center is a place of support for any student who wants to come in and discuss what is going on and what support is available for them.
“It is so hard to get up the courage to come in, but the research is pretty clear,” Clark said. “Violence on its own doesn’t get better. It typically gets worse. We know that there is a cycle of abuse, then a make-up period, then abuse again. What we see is that over time it becomes more intense. We are here to support you to help you overcome this.”
The LGBTQ Center on campus is located LS-G549, in the ground floor of Bartle Library. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. For immediate help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.