Out in the Open

Taking on domestic violence in the gay community

A lack of resources inspired Bruce Weiss, former executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), to join forces last summer with a small group of local advocates to launch the Rainbow Response Coalition to address ”intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community.”

Ruby Corado
Bruce Weiss
[File photo]

Committed to ”breaking the silence around the prevalence of partner violence,” Rainbow Response has since developed into a coalition of organizations and individuals that meets monthly. The group presents its first large public event — a town hall meeting to discuss intimate partner abuse among GLBT people — from 7 to 8:30 p.m., on Tuesday, April 8, at the Human Rights Campaign’s headquarters in downtown D.C.

Weiss says he hopes Rainbow Response will collaborate with the audience and selected panelists during the meeting to obtain valuable information.

”There’s not a whole lot of research out there,” Weiss says, noting that partner violence is an unspoken topic for much of the gay community. Many people who have experienced violence or abuse don’t even recognize it as such. Others recognize it, but can’t break out of it.

”There are people who are aware that they’re in a relationship that’s violent, threatening, and are afraid, they don’t know what to do,” says Weiss. ”They don’t know how to get out.”

With the community forum, Weiss says the group plans to initiate an ongoing dialogue, which would offer solutions to GLBT victims. Rainbow Response has invited representatives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) and the Mayor’s office to attend.

Rainbow Response claims that 25 to 33 percent of LGBTQ relationships include intimate partner violence.

”It’s no different than from heterosexual relationships in terms of the rate, but there are some differences in terms of how the power dynamics play out,” Weiss says.

”There are things such as people using HIV status to hold power over someone, people who are in the closet at work or with family, [and] that being used as a threat by a partner to control their partner.”

Rainbow Response member Thomas J. Buckley, Deputy Director of the Community Crisis Services, Inc., in Hyattsville, Md., echoed those comments.

”When you’re working with the gay and lesbian community… there’s more eggshells to walk on,” he says. ”There are those spokes to the wheel that have to be considered in addition to the regular cycle of violence that occurs.”

With Tuesday’s meeting Weiss says he hopes to raise visibility about the topic.

What we hope to achieve…is increasing visibility about this issue [and] letting people know there are options.”

For more information about the Rainbow Response Coalition, visit www.rainbowresponse.org. The Rainbow Response forum will be held at HRC headquarters, 1650 Rhode Island Ave., NW.