On Friday, Jan. 11, the Utah Pride Center and the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society will sponsor a panel discussion about the realities of domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships and what is being done across the country to address and prevent physical and emotional abuse in same-sex relationships.
"Domestic Violence in the GLBT Community: Myths, Facts and How you can Make a Difference" will be conducted by members of the National Council of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, which describes itself as the oldest “pro-feminist, gay-affirmative, anti-racist” men’s organization in the U.S. It will feature speakers who have worked with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender survivors of domestic violence – populations that are often invisible in shelters and crisis centers.
“Issues of how LGBT domestic violence happens and what our community’s response to that should be and needs to be … is not something that’s readily addressed in our community because of the ways in which LGBT people are marginalized,” said
NOMAS member and panel participant Moshe Rozdzial, a licensed professional counselor based in Denver, Colo. who works with survivors of domestic abuse.
“We don’t have the community infrastructure that is needed to protect LGBT folks from domestic violence issues as that which has occurred, for example, for women in the last 20 years of the movement.”
According to Rozdzial, the four NOMAS members on the panel “represent different issues around what’s happening [in the anti-domestic violence movement] and how we should think about LGBT domestic violence issues, specifically from a pro-feminist perspective.” These include Phyllis Frank, director of the Volunteer Counseling Services Community Change Project in Orange County, New York (a program that works with people who perpetrate violence in a relationship) and Jim McDowell, the program’s court liaison.
“They do work around how to deal with the batterer, accountability community response, education and criminal justice, all of those issues around how we hold batterers responsible,” said Rozdzial.
Rose Garrity, executive director of New Hope Shelter in Owego, N.Y., will also join the discussion group. According to Rozdzial, Garrity was one of the first people in the country “to deal with creating a safe place for gay men who are battered.”
“She can’t actually bring gay men to her shelter, but she has safe houses in the community where people volunteer to shelter gay men who need a safe house to get away from their abusers,” he said. “That’s a pretty new model for how to deal with those issues.”
Rozdzial said that he expects the discussion to touch on feminist issues, including how the feminist understanding of “power and control issues” in relationships pertain to same-sex couples.
“Basically it looks at the ways how, in a male-dominated culture, women are not individuals but are treated as possessions or objects, and that creates a system in which women can be disempowered and controlled, which is part of the way in which domestic violence happens,” he said.
He added that the idea that women are possessions has ramifications for same-sex couples – even gay male couples.
“LGBT couples are not immune from the general sociological ways in which we treat each other,” he said “Similar issues occur in same-sex relationships. In other words, for someone to be abused they tend to be somehow objectified – made a thing or possession. And that then creates the environment that is part and parcel of abuse.”
The discussion is not the only event NOMAS will offer. On Jan. 10, Phyllis Frank will lead a workshop at the church about the VCS Community Change Project’s model for batterer programs. So far, said Rozdzial, nearly 100 people have signed up for the workshop.
NOMAS leadership will also meet in the city over the weekend to plan for their annual national conference on men and masculinity, and to discuss business within the organization.
The national conference is scheduled to be held at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in August.
This weekend’s panel discussion will be held from 5:00 -7:00 p.m. Dinner will be served, and the discussion will be followed by Gay Bingo with the Utah Cyber Sluts.
The South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society is located at 6876 South Highland Drive (2000 East). For directions visit the church’s Web site at svuus.org.