Creating space for LGBTQ Illinoisans to discuss domestic violence


October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and advocates want to shed more light on how Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning survivors are often overlooked in discussions about violence prevention.

One in three women and one in four men are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Hannah Mesouani, director of mission and equity consulting for the YWCA in McLean County, explained there’s plenty of evidence of healthy straight relationships in the media, but far fewer examples of queer relationships.

“We already know there’s a massive stigma around domestic violence for straight women in relationships with men,” said Mesouani. “It’s tenfold when it comes to queer folks, because we don’t have solid representation of what good relationships look like.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is among those calling for a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2019. The U.S. House has already passed its version of the bill, which includes a grant program for initiatives specifically for LGBTQ domestic-violence survivors.

Mesouani added there are many myths and misconceptions about domestic violence. For instance, many people assume they’re more likely to face violence from strangers, but the data show it’s far more likely to be someone they know.

And the more conversations about domestic violence, she said, the better equipped prevention and support efforts will be.

“It’s not an anonymous aggressor,” said Mesouani. “It’s not the stereotypical ‘alpha men.’ For us to acknowledge and to understand that domestic violence, intimate partner violence, has many different faces, helps us know how we can invest in our communities to create a safe community for everyone there.”

Tomorrow, YWCA McLean holds a free, virtual training on Zoom and its Facebook page. The topic is the pressures facing LGBTQ youth, with suggestions for how to be more inclusive in violence prevention and education efforts.



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