Friday, February 16, 1996

Leather and Domestic Violence

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #19, February 16, 1996)

Someone recently told me about a boy in our community who was being abused by his Daddy, and asked if I knew where he could go for help. I told them who to call (see below). They later told me that the information had been most helpful, and the situation had been dealt with. They also suggested that this might be a good topic for my column, so here it is.

Domestic abuse has certainly gotten its share of attention in mainstream media, from O.J. and Nicole to various members of the Vikings to at least one state politician. But almost all the mainstream publicity frames the problem as the man (“perpetrator” or villain) beating his wife (victim). This model doesn’t really apply to either gay male or lesbian domestic violence. And we in the leather/SM community, being the creative tribe that we are, have invented flavors of domestic violence that would boggle the minds of “battered women” advocates. How does one explain a mistress who abuses her boy? Or a slave who abuses his or her master or mistress and then says, “If you don’t like it, you can take your frustration out on me in the dungeon”?

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, domestic violence does happen among gays and lesbians and in the leather community. And it can be stopped. I’m living proof of both those statements. I was in an abusive relationship for eighteen years before finally getting out of it almost three years ago.

What qualifies as abuse? For anyone but a leather columnist an easy answer is when your partner hits you. For people into SM that answer may not apply. (Then again, it may.) It is perhaps because of the “unorthodox” dynamics going on in leather/SM relationships that our community has developed its mantra: “Safe, Sane, Consensual.” If it’s not safe, if it’s not sane, or if it’s not consensual—it’s abuse.

Abuse can be physical, but it can also take other forms. Abuse is about one person trying to control another, and the abuser may use many control methods. There may be emotional or psychological abuse, preying on a victim’s self-image to make him or her easier to control. The victim’s property, pets or even children may be abused, the implied message being “If you don’t toe the line, you’re next.” Sexual abuse can take many forms, including both enforced sex (rape) and withholding sex. Abuse can even be financial.

In abusive relationships, the perpetrator’s objective is to maintain control over their victim. Paradoxically, they create in their victim the illusion that the victim is in control—and is therefore responsible for the fact they’re being abused (“I wouldn’t hit you if you didn’t deserve it” or “Oh, you’re really asking for it now, aren’t you?”) The victim thinks he or she provokes the abuse, and constantly “walks on eggshells” hoping—in vain—to avoid another blowup.

One other form of abuse needs to be mentioned here—chemical abuse, which often accompanies domestic abuse. It might be expected that if a perpetrator abuses their partner they might also abuse chemicals. And victims often turn to alcohol or other substances to deaden their pain. Unfortunately, the effects of chemical abuse and domestic abuse tend to magnify each other, quickly making bad situations even worse.

Like chemical abuse, domestic abuse is progressive—it rarely gets better on its own and almost always escalates. I’m lucky my abuser didn’t kill me. And when I see news reports of victims who kill their abusers in self-preservation I realize that had circumstances been just a little different, that could have been me.

Minneapolis was one of the first cities in the nation to address the issue of gay and lesbian domestic violence; in the next issue we’ll look at some of the community resources available for helping both perpetrators and victims. Until then, if you are being abused, or if you find yourself hitting the man or woman you love, help is available by calling the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline (or call the GLCAC Helpline, noon to midnight). Susan Gibel is the domestic violence program coordinator. GLCAC is not a leather organization, but they are leather-friendly.

“Black Frost” This Weekend!
Lavender Lifestyles and your humble leather columnist extend a hearty welcome to everyone visiting the Twin Cities for Black Frost 19, “Spur’d On In ’96.” Here’s hoping you all have a great time (and a safe one)!

No comments:

Post a Comment