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Panel talks on domestic violence in queer community

Members of the Brandeis community gathered to hear a panel speak about domestic violence in the queer and transgender community. The panel featured various members of the queer and transgender community, as well as experts in the field, and was moderated by Deirdre Hunter, a lecturer in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

The panelists included: Damian Lima, an advocate for health and rights of transgender, queer and immigrant people; Lauren Montanaro, a community engagement specialist at REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, an organization that is “building healthy communities by ending domestic violence,” according to their website; and Erin Miller, a manager at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s domestic violence program.

Program Administrator for the Gender and Sexuality Center, Ryan Mishler, opened the panel with a statement focusing on the systems currently available for members of the queer community. “For many members of the LGBTQIA community around this country, there are really no support systems or resources available to them that meet their specific needs as queer or trans folks,” said Mishler. “When they do try to access these services or support systems, they are met with homophobia, transphobia and many times ridicule.”

Over the course of the panel, different topics about domestic violence were highlighted. The first topic of discussion was about the importance of talking about and addressing domestic violence in queer and trans communities.

According to Lima, the biggest reason to confront the issue is “because it happens, and oftentimes people don’t think it happens.” Domestic or sexual violence are issues found not only in heterosexual or cis relationships. Queer and trans people, especially queer and trans people of color, are already more susceptible to violence and vulnerability.

Montanaro highlighted the injustice that members of the transgender and queer community face. “If we don’t name the problem, if we continue to shroud in that isolation and that silence and continue to push it to the backburner,” said Montanaro, “then we’re doing a disservice to those who are part of our community where this has been their experience.”

Miller spoke about her personal experiences growing up in a “heterocentric model of men committing violence against women.” Comparing the historical context with the current climate of domestic violence, Miller said that people “need to center the leadership of historically marginalized and oppressed people—in particular, queer and trans folks of color.”

The rest of the panel included discussions of marginalization, vulnerability and reasons why abuse can occur in relationships.


Many attendees in Hunter’s class

Panelists, right to left:
Vilma (PARC)
Damien: Health promotion center in JP (Advocate for health and rights of transgender, queer immigrant people. Wellesley college with WGS, passion for LGBTQ and health issues have led him to paid and unpaid roles HIV/STI testing, counseling. 2015 Community Luminary Award The Network La Red in Boston. 2016 Recognized by Fenway health for his work on transgender healthcare
Lauren Montanaro (?) – Community Engagement Specialist at REACH; co-chair of LGBTQIA domestic violence coalition, americorp alumna
Erin – manager of domestic violence sexual assault at NWH, AAAS, anti-racism research
Prof. Deidre Hunter: extensive experience; La Red, legal advocate, program director – daybreak worcestor
Ryan (Mishner?)

Why important to talk about domestic violence in queer and trans communities?What other issues affect people…why are you here?
Damien: “Because it happens, and oftentimes people don’t think it happens, but we’re talking about power dynamics.”

Lauren: “gendered language” that “isolates so many people” For me a big part of why this conservation is so important it happens and it’s not being talked about. So when we’re thinking about abuse when I go out. What i’m hearing is very gendered language.
“Lack of representation [in LGBTQ communities] “being able to shed light on this, raise awareness on this.
When we’re thinking about this awareness, it’s important to think about how this conve. “Because its a conversation isn’t happening in other spaces, and if we don’t name the problem, if we continue to shroud in that isolation and that silence and continue to push it to that backburner, then we’re doing such a disservice to those who are part of our community where this has been their experience.”:
“If we don’t name the problem… then we’re doing such a disservice …”

Erin: “need to center leadership of historically marginalized…”
Especially queer people of color – marginalized historically and in their own relationships
Not enough research about prevalence rates OR for people who “don’t fit into the box” like bisexuals, gender non-conforming

And I was brought up in that very hetereocentric model of men committing violence against women and that was really powerful at a certain historical juncture and was also deeply and wildly insufficient in so many ways and so one of the things that has occurre to me repeatedly over time is how folks who do the kinds of work that they do need to take leadership, need to center the leadership of historically marginalized and oppressed people, in particular, queer and trans folks of color. We have spent the last 40 years figuring out the hard way, figuring out the way queer and trans communities have long known. Beacuse these communities are subjected to disproporinate amounts of violence from all sides, form the state, form strangers, form systems, including healthcare, from everyone and from partners. For me, as somone who self-identifies as part of the community, but got taught in my professional life, that’s not important.

Marginalization, intersectionality of oppressions
Damien: “folks most affected by inequities… are the msot vulnerable… They have vulnerabilites that can be exploited”

Hunter: need to talk about this in schools – college as space of “identity exploration” Need to provide info and support to students at changing/experimental time in their lives

Damien: couple where one member is not from US/doesn’t have citizenship – power dynamics, intersectionality “legal and justice system blind to that”

Lauren: what resources are accessible – don’t feel safe/comfortable calling police or filing court order
Misinformation with restraining orders – not true that you can’t file it against someone of same sex
Immigrant status – survivor dependent on partner – lack of information, trust, resources

Erin: women of color can’t find sv,dv “separable” from their identities
“Violence, abuse and trauma at the intersections
Transformative justice – alternatives to calling police
*Structural changes

Vulnerability – family, support
Damien: vulnerability starts with lack of support from families
Queer, trans folks – no examples of healthy relationships

Erin: families can be source of danger – survivors lacking support system
Makes you an easy target for abuse

Why does abuse happen in relationships?
Lauren: Definition of abuse at REACH – repeated, pattern, one person powerful over another, non-gendered,

Damien: myth that abusive partner cannot be a woman
Erin: abuser tries to “muddy the waters” about who’s abuser, who’s victim
Abuser can be anyone – no set stereotypes

What do you see for the future?
Erin: won’t need LGBTQ-specific services – just accepted as part of community, as a type of relationship

Available resources?
La Red
Violence recovery program – Fenway
REACH (Lauren): 24/7 free confidential hotline

What to give to survivors/victims?
Vilma: hope
Lauren: ability to feel believed
Erin: true community/connection

Serena Shen ’19 – question – how to approach domestic violence in families – situations where it’s less easy to “choose” who you’re with

Vilma: create space for people (esp. poc and queer/trans poc) to “thrive” in their own communities

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