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'It's (Just) the Way That I Love You': Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships (Part 3)

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In Part 2 of "It's (Just) the Way That I Love You," I asked whether an abuser can really control his or her behavior. Now I'll detail the complete cycle of intimate partner violence/abuse (IPV/A), also known as domestic violence/abuse. First, though, let's review what this appalling, demoralizing and potentially life-threatening behavior really is.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

Battering is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person with whom an intimate relationship is or has been shared through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Battering happens when one person believes that they are entitled to control another.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines it thus:

Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence/abuse) is defined as a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.

Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency in same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships. Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTQ individuals than previously thought is living in fear of an abusive partner. Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 lesbians and as many as 500,000 gay men are battered by a partner. About one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships is abusive in some way.

According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith:

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn't "play fair." Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her "thumb." Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

Segal and Smith add:

The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it's coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

So what is the complete cycle of IPV/A? According to Segal and Smith, this behavior falls into a common pattern, which begins with abuse and ends with the setup:

  • Abuse -- Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play intended to "keep you in line, and show you who's boss."
  • Guilt -- After abusing you, your partner feels guilt--but not over what he/she's done. The abuser is more concerned about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for the abusive behavior.
  • Excuses -- Your abuser rationalizes what he/she has done, devising a string of excuses or blaming you for the abusive behavior--anything to avoid taking responsibility.
  • "Normal" Behavior -- The abuser does everything to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. Your abuser may act as if nothing has occurred, or he/she may pour on the charm. The abuser's apologies and loving overtures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult for you to leave. Your abuser may make you believe that you are the only person who can help, that things will be different, and that he/she truly loves you. However, the dangers are staying are very real.
  • Fantasy and Planning -- Your abuser starts to fantasize about abusing you again, spending a lot of time thinking about what you've done wrong and how he/she'll make you pay. Next, the abuser devises a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality. (Here's Part A of an example: he/she tells you to go to the store, but doesn't tell you that you have a certain amount of time to return. When you're a few minutes late because you were held up in traffic, your abuser assaults you.)
  • Set-up -- Your abuser sets you up and puts his/her plan into motion, creating a situation where he/she can justify abusing you. (Part B of the preceding example: when you're a few minutes late, your partner feels totally justified in attacking you because, according to him/her, "you're having an affair with the store clerk or manager.")

Part 4 of "It's (Just) the Way That I Love You" will center on how the victim can make his or her "great escape." If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901). And always remember that it ain't (just) the way that he or she loves you!