Breaking Free: Domestic violence in the LGBTQ community

HOUSTON – Domestic violence has no boundaries or barriers. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation; but much of the domestic violence awareness movement focuses on solely heterosexual relationships. Members of the LGBTQ community say they do not feel seen or heard.

“Was it worth losing me? Was it worth losing myself?” Asked Michael Gutierrez, a survivor of intimate partner violence or domestic abuse.

Reflection is powerful, just ask Gutierrez.

“It’s very hard to make that detachment from someone you love.”

About a year ago, Gutierrez ended a three-year relationship with his then-boyfriend because of intimate partner abuse.

“How it all happened, and it formed, was me allowing it to happen, me not recognizing the signs. I felt like a bunch of people couldn’t intervene between that, because they seen it as, and respected it as two different males, you don’t come in between two guys. Instead of seeing it as an actual relationship. I felt really helpless during the time, it was because I didn’t know I didn’t have any resources,” explained Gutierrez.

It wasn’t until the cops were called because of a violent altercation that Gutierrez got word of domestic violence resources for members of the LGBTQ community from a responding Houston Police Department officer.

“One of the officers came up to me, and they had introduced me to the Montrose Program,” said, Gutierrez.

“I help people fleeing domestic violence,” said Angelic Setchell, who is the anti-violence program specialist at the Montrose Center.

“There are limited resources for domestic violence, for people who experience, but even more so for the community. Because of the fact, there are a lot of people in the community who do not have a lot of support. They end up on the street, because their family is not okay with them being part of the community,” said Setchell, who added shelters in Houston are LGBTQ friendly, but…

“As soon as you say a gay man, or it’s a trans person, all of the sudden you can hear the change in their voice, in that, let me check, and then they come back and say, ‘oh we don’t have any availability,’” explained Setchell.

Another unique obstacle members of the LGBTQ community are faced with during domestic abuse is “outing” – threatening to reveal a partner’s sexual orientation, which reduces the likelihood that person will seek help, according to the national coalition against domestic violence.

Nearly 42% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women. Twenty-six percent of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have been victimized in comparison to 29 percent of heterosexual men. Experts say fewer gay men report domestic violence and reach out for help.

Black and brown people within the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, while white people within the community are more likely to experience sexual violence.

As for Gutierrez, his journey of self-help has led to self-love.

“I have to be my own man before I can let someone be my man, I think that was really big for me.”

The Anti-Violence Program at The Montrose Center serves close to 100 people each year. Needs vary from needing shelter, housing services, protective orders and crimes-victims compensation.

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About the Author:

Zachery “Zach” Lashway anchors KPRC 2+ Now. He began at KPRC 2 as a reporter in October 2021.