Many of us in the LGBTQ+ community are “hopeful romantics,” and things tend to move very quickly. I always say that one year in a gay relationship is like five years in a heterosexual one. While this can be exciting, it can also be a major red flag. For me it was a major red flag, but it took some time to see it.
Being in an abusive relationship felt like I was going back in the closet because I was hiding it from my friends and family. As a couple, we were even concealing it from our Instagram followers by posting as if everything was “peaches and roses,” but in reality there was a dark side to the relationship. I realize now that I should not have stayed in the relationship for as long as I did, and I do not want to be an example to our community that this type of relationship is acceptable. Writing my story in my book, Love Is Not Abuse, was difficult to do but pivotal to my recovery from domestic violence. I hope it will inspire others to become more aware of domestic violence issues in the LGBTQ+ community and join me in doing something about it.
Statistics tell the story in LGBTQ+ relationships and show that domestic violence is more common for us than those in heterosexual relationships. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, here are the facts:
● 45 percent of victims do not report the violence they experience to police because they believe it will not help them.
● Fewer than 5 percent of LGBTQ+ domestic violence victims ever seek protective orders from a court.
● 43.8 percent of lesbians and 61.1 percent of bisexual women are raped, the recipient of physical violence, and/or stalked by a partner at some point; this is true of only 35 percent of heterosexual women.
Anyone can be at risk for domestic violence, but there are specific groups of LGBTQ+ people who are at the most vulnerable for intimate partner violence, including trans, Black, and bisexual people and individuals who do not have the means to support themselves.
Getting out of abusive relationships is tricky for LGBTQ+ people. Our legal system is still not perfect, as homophobia and transphobia still play a role in the legal workings of many states. So domestic violence victims may encounter prejudice from police or authority figures when they report abuse. Unfortunately, this can still occur even if the laws in their state provide equal protection for LGBTQ+ relationships. If someone reports the abusive situation only to be denied care, they can often end up worse off than before. This is one of the most common reasons that people in the LGBTQ+ community do not report domestic violence. However, do not hesitate to contact your local authorities and even seek a protective order if the abuse gets out of hand. It is important to have the abuse documented on an official police record even if you are not ready to leave; otherwise it could negatively affect your case later when you do decide to leave.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or you fear someone you know is, it is important to seek out resources specifically for the LGBTQ+ community to get proper support. I had difficulty with finding resources when I was trying to get out of my abusive relationship, which is why I started a nonprofit called Essential Haus, where we will provide a safe place and resources for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who have been affected by domestic violence and homelessness. Our goal is to help victims of domestic violence get an essential new start because leaving abusive relationships is so tough, not only because of all the emotional aspects but also because the financial aspects are a huge barrier.
Bottom line: Love is not abuse, and there is a way out. My hope is that LGBTQ+ people hear this message through my story so they can help others who may be in a similar situation or help themselves. Through awareness, support, and true love we can build a safer community for everyone.
Timothy McLemore is the founder of Essential Haus, a nonprofit organization in Miami that provides a safe place for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who have been affected by domestic violence and homelessness. His new book, Love Is Not Abuse, speaks about his experiences with domestic abuse in a gay relationship and provides resources and hope for others in similar relationships. He is a community organizer, social media influencer, and creator of “Gays With Stories,” a popular Instagram page that shares the positive stories of gay men around the world.
For more tips on leaving abusive relationships and for details on Love Is Not Abuse, join the Essential Haus community at the Essential Haus Facebook and Essential Haus Instagram pages or connect with Timothy McLemore directly @essentiallytim.