Think Pink & Purple

E. Clare Stewart is graduate of Fisk University and Meharry Medical College School of Graduate Studies and Research. She currently serves as the Community Coordinator for the HBCU Wellness Project at Fisk University. Follow her on twitter at @EClareStewart.

October brings us rich oranges, golden yellows, dark reds, soothing browns and all things pink. Throughout the month, men and women alike wear pink to support the eradication of breast cancer. This month isn’t just about breast cancer, it’s also about ending domestic or intimate partner violence.

Last October, I was introduced to Project STOP NOW! through various events on the campus of Fisk University. Project STOP NOW! (Students Taking Opportunity for Prevention, by Noticing On-Campus Violence Against Women), is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women. It is focused on providing training and technical assistance to UNCF (United Negro College Fund) member colleges and universities for the purpose of implementing campus programs and policies that increase the prevention of violent crimes against women.

The month ended with Walk The Oval In Her Shoes which was the university’s version of Walk A Mile in Her Shoes an international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. The walk provided a playful opportunity for Fisk’s men to raise awareness on campus about the causes, effects, and remediations to sexualized violence.

I can’t help but laugh as I recall watching the young men walk the campus oval. They teetered and tottered up and down the oval as they read facts about intimate partner violence. I even felt the slightest tinge of sympathy as they peeled the heels off their feet.

For victims of intimate partner violence, changing their reality isn’t as easy as kicking off a peep toe platform pump.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, defines intimate partner violence as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. Used as a means of exerting power or control, the violence can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or financial.

I was reminded of intimate partner violence awareness month as I passed a group of young men wearing purple ribbons. So I visited various websites on intimate partner violence and read a few articles, each more shocking than the previous. My search opened my eyes to something I never knew existed. Feel free to paint me your favorite shade of surprised, but the “phenomenon” of same-sex relationship violence surprised me. I, like many of my counterparts think of intimate partner violence in the “classic” sense, if you will, women being battered by men.

My research showed the frequency of violence in same-sex relationships mirrors heterosexual relationships. While many factors are the same, members of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Ally and Asexual) community face unique challenges. These challenges include overcoming many common misconceptions about the nature of their relationships. The most shocking of these misconceptions affect heterosexual and homosexual relationships. There is a tendency to believe men are never victims partner violence, women are not perpetrators, and victims of the violence earn or deserve abuse.

A unique barrier those in the same-sex community experience is mutual battering. Mutual battering assumes the assault is welcomed or okay because it happens among gender equals. According to Ashley Taranto’s work published by the Council on Crime and Justice, “This lack of understanding has led to a significant number of cases where criminal justice systems professionals, for example, have not recognized the dynamics of the abuse of power and control in these relationships and therefore have not offered the appropriate legal resolution to the case nor the appropriate domestic violence specific resources to the victims.”

Let me be clear: No what matter your thoughts, beliefs or convictions concerning LGBTQIA lifestyles, no one deserves abuse. NO ONE. Don’t dare brush intimate partner violence off as something with no impact on your personal life. Violence is a public health concern. Victims, no matter their sexual orientation, suffer physical and emotional trauma that can lead to destructive coping behaviors. These toxic relationships can result in assault, rape, lost productivity and even death.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 800.799.SAFE (7233)

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program 212.714.1141

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project 800.832.1901

The Network/La Red 617.742.4911