According to the last National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) released by the Union health ministry, every third woman aged above 15 has faced domestic violence of various forms across our country. It also found that 31 per cent of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses. The most common type of spousal violence is physical violence at 27 per cent, followed by emotional violence at 13 per cent. Every third married woman who has experienced spousal violence spoke of assaults resulting in eye injuries, sprains, dislocations, burns, broken bones and broken teeth. Yet, only 14 per cent of the women who had experienced this violence sought help to stop it. The same survey also showed that four percent of “ever-married women” have ever initiated physical violence against their husband when he was not already beating or physically hurting them. Both data only account for ciswomen and cismen.
It is also important to remember that the survey does not take non-heterosexual couples into consideration. It also does not take other genders into consideration. Studies and reports that address intimate partner violence within the LGBTQIA+ community is lacking. One can attribute this to the decades of silence that has been weighed upon the community.
A 2013 study in the United States found that almost one-third of sexual minority males and one-half of sexual minority women were victims of physical or psychological abuse in a romantic relationship. In addition, over 50% of gay men and almost 75% of lesbian women reported that they were victims of psychological spousal violence. The prevalence severe violence among bisexual women was found at 49.3%, lesbian women at 29.4% and homosexual men at 16.4% compared to heterosexual heterosexual women at 23.6% and heterosexual men at 13.9%. One can only imagine what the numbers are like for the desi community.
Red flags to watch out for
Relationship abuse is a very real problem that can affect a person regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other parameters, and it is one that should not be tolerated. Abusive partners in LGBTQIA+ relationships use the same tactics to gain control of their partners as abusers in heterosexual relationships.
It’s also not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive.
In fact, many abusers may seem absolutely perfect on the surface — as if they are the dream partner — in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerges and intensifies as the relationship grows.
If you’re beginning to feel as if your partner or a loved one’s partner is becoming abusive, here are a few things to watch out for.
- Misgendering: They might be purposefully misgendering you. Even if you allow them room for an honest mistake or two, if you find that they are making no effort to correct themselves, or simply continue to misgender you, be wary.
- Deadnaming: They might deadname you. If they do so, the intention is to be disrespectful, and deny you your identity and your experiences.
- Preventing Access: If you are a trasngender person, and they are preventing you from taking their hormones or denying access to appropriate medical treatment.
- Outing You/Threatening to: Threatening to out you to family and friends. This is a common control tactic used by abuser. It is tantamount to emotional blackmail. Threatening to disclose your personal information without your consent is not acceptable in any situation.
- Mocking you: Mocking you for not being gay, lesbian, or bisexual “enough” or being “too” gay or lesbian. Your identity is unique to yourself and you should not feel pressured to fit into a box so that it is easier for someone else to accept you.
- Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do. A common tactic among abusers; they might generally be vary of your friends or family who they think of as a threat. Cutting off emotional support from others to make you feel that your partner is all you have, keeps the abusive relationship going for longer.
- Belittling you in front of others, or even while alone. They might constantly mock you with regards to looks, personality or even your sexual identity to make you feel less than. The idea is to make you believe that you don’t deserve better.
- Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses. While having access to each other’s finance is important, it should not ever come at the cost of losing your financial independence.
- Threatening to commit suicide is yet another emotionally manipulative tactic. They use this to prevent you from leaving or accepting responsibility for their behaviour. By putting the burden of their life on you, they are being selfish.
- Threatening to hurt or kill you, or people you love. Threatening to hurt your pets is also unacceptable. A threat can turn into action. It is also unfair to live under constant fear.
- Pressuring you to have sex or do things you’re not comfortable with. They may not be aggressive about this. They might constantly be making requests about something you have said no to, or trying to convince you otherwise to the point that it just seems like that they won’t take no for an answer.
- They might come across as too-good-to-be-true. You might find them to be overly affectionate, or constantly showering you with gifts. This can evolve to become a bribe of sorts; a way of “apologising” for their behaviour.
- They might insist that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or your job.
- They might be excessively possessive, and hence, jealous. You might find yourself constantly being accused of being unfaithful. You might find them constantly monitoring you or snooping around your things or the same reason.
- They might insist on knowing where you are at all times. They will frequently call, email, and text you throughout the day. They would pick a fight if you don’t respond, or even go to the extent of tracking you down.
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or even financial and while the signs and tactics are mostly similar in all relationships, there are also a few unique challenges that some victims can face as a result of their identity.
You might find yourself pressurised to maintain the perfect couple image. People who belong to marginalised groups can often feel that they have to maintain a facade of perfectio in order to assimilate to mainstream culture]. This might make it harder to discuss problems with others. They might also overcompensate because they might think that the behaviour of one would tarnish the image of the entire community. However, it is important to remember that people behave badly regardless of their identity, sexuality or gender. While you might feel the need to protect your community, your own health and safety should be your top priority.
Homophobia and transphobia may make it harder to speak out. Many fear that they won’t be believed or they won’t be taken seriously. Since the assumption is that sexual and relationship violence only occurs in situations with male perpetrators and female victims, many may feel worried about facing further prejudice.
Internalised oppression might prevent one from reaching out. The partner being abused may believe they deserve it because they are LGBTQIA+. They may have internalised many of society’s ignorance and hate that they accept the abuse as their fate.
One might not know where to turn to. While Section 377 has been scrapped, the laws that protect the community are next to none. There are no systems in place to support the community. Turning to the law may not be an option for most.
Getting out of an abusive relationship
Internal and structural oppression are tough barriers to overcome. However, seeking help may be the kindest thing you can do for yourself.
Tell someone you trust. It can be a friend, family member or even a colleague that you are close to. Confide in them. You would need all the emotional support you can get.
Make safety arrangements. Physically leaving the space of abuse is important, but it is not easy. Plan head and start organising. Arrange for a place you can go to. Get a new sim card so you can discard your current number as soon as you leave. Save some money. If you don’t want to rely on your cards, start making small withdrawals and keep it somewhere safe. Or ask a friend to keep it for you.
Mohammed Afeef, advocate, Centre for Law and Policy Research, says, “Sharing intimate photos on dating apps or social media platforms is a common form of abuse. It is a violation of privacy, and this works as a way out outing people. In such scenarios, we give legal notices to the offender, and they tend to back off. If that doesn’t work, approach the police.”
However, police apathy and inaction are common reasons for why many don’t seek legal help in case of abuse. In such situations, the victim can go through a Private Complaint Register (PCR) under Section 200 of CrPC. However, a much easier way would be to approach the court with a writ petition, which will force the police to look into the issue. “Unfortunately, the law imagines heteronormativity. It views women as the victim of any physical or sexual violence. If you are a woman in an abusive lesbian relationship, you still fit within the category of aggrieved ‘woman’. The IPC 354 is also applicable in the situation. In cases of abuse in male-to-male relationships, you will only be able to file a case of assault. If the victim is a minor, then The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 applies,” he adds.
Non Binary people, unfortunately will have to misgender/gender themselves to be able to access help as ‘women’ even if they are only assigned female at birth and do not identify as women. In the case of non binary people who have been assigned male at birth, the law still does not have appropriate facilities for ‘male’ victims of abuse.
Being in an abusive relationship can be an overwhelming experience, even more so when you belong to a marginalised community. However, there are people who can help you. If you find yourself needing help, reach out to any of these resources:
iCALL Psychosocial Helpline
022 2552 1111, from Monday to Saturday 8 am to 10 pm. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1800 2000 113, 24 x 7
Sneha Foundation India
Contact email@example.com or leave a text message at 98415 57983. They also conduct a monthly confidential peer-facilitated support group once a month.
They are a peer support group and social space for queer women, trans men and others assigned female at birth.
A space for lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual women in Chennai.
Shelter for Women
Set up by the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) , the shelter seeks to help women fleeing their homes because of violence from parents, siblings or intimate partners.
Contact the helpline at 44431 11143 or /www.pcvconline.org/contact.htm
An informal social and support group based in Coimbatore. To reach its volunteers and join the WhatsApp group, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Queerbatore’ in the subject list.
It is a community based organisation that started off as a support group. Thet meet on first Saturdays.
Reach out on email@example.com or 97478 11406.
For lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people.
97449 55866, Thursday, Friday, Saturday between 4 pm – 7 pm or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Helpline for Transgender community
1800 425 2147, 24 x7
Good As You, Bangalore
A space for lesbian, bisexuals, gays and other sexual minorities) people.
Contact 080 2223 0959 or visit www.facebook.com/GoodasyouBlr
080 2343 9124, Saturdays (11.30 am to 3 pm) and Tuesdays (1..30 am to 6 pm)
Contact at 99456 01653/54 or 99452 31493
98315 18320, 10 am to 9 pm
022 2667 380, Monday to Friday 10 am to 6.30 pm
Sangini helpline for lesbian, bisexual, trans and questioning women
Call 011-55676450 Tuesdays 12 pm to 3pm and Fridays 6pm to 8pm.
The queer feminist resource group works towards addressing issues of lesbian, bisexual women and trans people assigned female at birth.
Contact 98181 51707 from Monday to Friday between 10 am to 6 pm.
011 26321830, Monday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 5 pm