According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in four gay men, and one in 10 bisexual men, report having been victims of rape, violence or stalking by their intimate partner, and last year, a local domestic-violence agency created an initiative to combat those numbers and provide safe havens for victims.
Lutheran Settlement House launched its LGBTQ Initiatives program under the Intimate Partner Violence Project in August. The effort combines LGBT-focused education, prevention and outreach regarding domestic violence.
In addition to heightening awareness about the issue of LGBT domestic violence and offering culturally competent services for victims, the program connects victims with transitional services.
“Lutheran Settlement House is the only domestic-violence agency in the city that is housing male domestic-violence victims,” program director Tony Enos said about the program’s emergency-beds initiative, especialy important as the city does not have a male domestic-violence shelter.
LSH’s program enables male victims of physical violence to access housing for up to five days, or 10 in certain circumstances.
“It’s transitional housing, not a domestic-violence shelter,” Enos said. “The idea is to really do our best to get them into transitional housing and safely.”
Enos said the city’s Office of Supportive Housing has been integral in helping to get the program off the ground, supplying about half of the initiative’s funding.
“We’ve successfully transitioned victims safely and helped them get the other things they need — job placement, housing, counseling, care. A lot of that is needed when you’ve been dealing with an abusive relationship. You have a lot to deal with, in addition to the trauma, to transition into a safer and healthier life.”
In November, the DV-4 LGBT Caucus, comprised of leaders at the city’s four primary domestic-violence agencies, including LSH, organized a two-day LGBT training for employees at the four organizations.
“We talked about how to be sensitive to the culture, the language of the community,” Enos said. “The last thing somebody who’s been traumatized needs is to walk in and have a counselor look at them like their head’s on backwards because the counselor doesn’t speak their language, isn’t familiar with their culture or isn’t aware of the culturally specific factors that have played a role in their situation.”
Enos himself was in an abusive relationship for eight years.
The city’s dearth of LGBT-specific services was one of the factors that prevented him from seeking help — a trend he said Lutheran Settlement House is hoping to break.
“We want to get the word out about what we’re doing here and that help is available,” he said. “If I’d known something to this effect was around at that time, maybe I would have gotten out sooner. LGBTQ domestic violence is prevalent, it’s on the rise and, unfortunately, in our community we often internalize this and don’t see domestic violence for what it is. But we need to raise awareness about that and show people that help is out there.”
For more information, call 215-426-8610 and ask for the LGBT Intimate Partner Violence Department or visit LSH on Facebook or at www.lutheransettlement,org