Milwaukee Community Center holds Oct. 23 vigil for victims of domestic violence

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center will observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a candlelight vigil in honor of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 in the courtyard outside the center, 1110 N. Market Street.

The center operates Milwaukee’s Anti-Violence Program (AVP), which launched in 2001 to provide services to LGBT survivors of crimes, including intimate-partner violence (IPV), hate crimes or sexual assault. Services include counseling, case management and legal advocacy.

“LGBTQ people often face additional barriers and discrimination when seeking help after IPV,” said Anne David, who manages the center’s AVP and counseling services. “Stereotypes contribute to these barriers, making it difficult for victims and service providers to recognize and address IPV in same-sex relationships.”

She added, “Violence in the LGBTQ community is often invisible not only to the IPV service community but among LGBTQ communities, as well, which increases isolation and creates further barriers to victims of partner violence.”

The Milwaukee AVP is a member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which recently released a study reporting that intimate-partner violence led to at least 19 deaths nationally in 2011.

The NCAVP paper – “Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States” – collected statistics from anti-violence programs in 22 states. The programs participating in 2011 were in Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

In 2010, the NCAVP reported six homicides associated with intimate-partner violence – a term the coalition members say is more appropriate than domestic violence.

The majority of IVP homicides in 2011 were men; the year before two-thirds of the victims were women.

The report also showed that transgender survivors of intimate-partner violence often are turned away from support services and shelters.

“Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals of all gender vectors are frequently unable to access both shelter and other support services … which are also sex-segregated,” said Michael Munson, executive director of Milwaukee’s FORGE. “Unfortunately, ‘sex-segregated’ translates to ‘sex-excluded,’ resulting in trans survivors being at increased risk of continued/recurring violence and also dramatically impairing longer-term healing due to lack of core support services.”

Other findings in the NCAVP report include: 

• People under 30 were almost two times as likely to experience intimate-partner violence. 

• People of color under 30 were nearly four times as likely to experience physical violence.

• Sixty-one percent of IVP survivors in 2011 reported being denied access to shelter, an increase from 44 percent in 2010.

• Overall, the number of reports received by AVPs in 2011 was down 22 percent to 3,930. This was largely due to a 42.7 percent decrease in reports to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center that can’t be attributed to a decline in violence but because the center lost funding and staff for its program.

Terra Slavin at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center said, “We need legislation such as the reauthorization of an LGBTQ-inclusive Violence Against Women Act that will help ensure that all people experiencing intimate-partner violence … receive access to life-saving support and services.”

Some other recommendations from the NCAVP: 

• Fund intimate-partner violence prevention initiatives, particularly for youth and young adults. 

• Support LGBT training and technical assistance programs to increase the cultural competency of all victim service providers.

• Increase government funding for LGBT specific anti-violence programs.

About a week before the release of the NCAVP report and at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, researchers with the LGBT-focused Williams Institute in Los Angeles published a journal paper on intimate-partner violence.

Naomi G. Goldberg and Ilan H. Meyer reported:

• Bisexual women were at elevated risks of experiencing intimate-partner violence compared with other women. 

• In 95 percent of intimate-partner violence incidents reported by bisexual women, the perpetrator was a male.

• Gay men had elevated risk of experiencing intimate partner violence compared with other men. About 97 percent of the annual incidents of intimate partner violence incidents occurring to male victims involved a male perpetrator.