Continuum of consent, cooperation, coercion
When Tom was done, he got off me and stood there, still holding the knife, not saying anything. I was crying and telling him that I was sorry, sorry for what I’d put him through, sorry that I’d pushed him over the edge and made him so angry, sorry that I’d forced him to punish me like that ... I just lay on the bed crying, thinking that what he had said was right, that I deserved it ... Driving home, it never occurred to me to go to the police or stop at a hospital or tell anyone what happened to me. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone for five years ... [the next day] I was still scared of him and afraid of what he could do to me. The only way I could justify what he had done was to tell myself that this was an isolated incident, that I had driven him to this. I took full responsibility for what had happened and told myself that as long as I was good, it would never happen again. - Greg Louganis, describing his reactions after his lover, Tom, raped him, from “Breaking the Surface” with Eric Marcus
AVP identifies a case as domestic violence in which one or more of the offenders is a current or past lover or boyfriend, roommate, or family member of the survivor. Of sexual assaults reported during 1995 and 1996, 36% (36 of 101) of the gay men were sexually assaulted in the context of domestic violence.
Basic information about domestic violence:
Overall, domestic violence accounts for 32% of AVP’s caseload. Over the two-year period of this study, there were 471 gay male victims of domestic violence reported, and 345 lesbian victims. Lesbians were sexually assaulted in 11 (3.2%) and gay men in 36 (7.6%) of the abusive relationships. Gay men in an abusive relationship are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than lesbians.
To my knowledge, AVP’s observation of the prevalence of domestic violence in the sexual assault of gay men is unique. I believe this is because AVP specifically addresses domestic violence and sexual assault, and therefore we are in a unique position to identify their intersection. Most rape crisis programs are unequipped to address male sexual assault, let alone recognize that a gay man is being abused by his partner. The same is true for most domestic violence programs. Most lesbian/gay-identified crime tracking programs focus on hate crimes; they’re not prepared to evaluate domestic violence.
The sexual assaults that occurred in the context of domestic violence were not reported to AVP as such. The abusive partner was reported to us; in the course of gathering history, we learned that sexual assault occurred. Also, the victims in these relationships did not report to us incidents of sexual assault. Often, they would report that they sometimes had sex when they didn’t want to in order to avoid an argument or a fight. The victim/survivor is less likely to identify the violence in a domestic violence situation.
- ongoing violence and victimization; most often cyclical, not constant
- intimidation in past violence
- threat of future violence
- continuum of consent, cooperation and coercion across the cycle of violence