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June is Pride Month; it is a time to advance the equality, visibility, affirmation, and rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a month filled with beautiful, radiant, festive, and colorful celebration. However, it is a somber time to reflect on the injustices that LGBTQIA+ communities have faced and continue to face to this day. The Family Safety Network, a victims advocacy nonprofit in Teton Valley, proudly joins and supports the celebrations and reflections of Pride Month.

An unfortunate but common theme in the history of LGBTQIA+ communities is erasure. The domestic violence and sexual assault awareness movement has both historically and presently erased the experiences of the queer community. The centering of the cisgender and heterosexual experience in the domestic violence movement must be changed radically so that LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) can access the resources they need. Despite this incorrect stereotype that queer folk do not experience IPV, research has found that the LGBTQIA+ community suffers from IPV at a rate higher than the rest of the population. For example, bisexual women are 1.8 times more likely to experience IPV in their lifetimes than heterosexual women are.

Centering the queer population in the domestic violence and sexual assault movement is extremely important because of the increased barriers to receiving help faced by the queer community. These barriers are a result from the pervasive prejudices and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. In an abusive relationship, the abuser often uses manipulative tactics to prevent the victim from seeking help. This can look like threats, coercion, isolation, and more. In LGBTQIA+ couples, the victim faces the increased threat of being “outed” by their partner before they are ready. In addition, an abuser may belittle the victim by misgendering them, refusing to use correct pronouns, encouraging bullying for their gender and sexuality, and threatening that coming forward to seek help will bring harm to the LGBTQIA+ community.

In addition to the unique challenges imposed by the abusers of LGBTQIA+ individuals, those facing abuse can struggle with discrimination when seeking help. Often, a survivor may fear that those they seek help from will pass judgement on them for their gender and sexuality – many times this fear is enough to stop them from seeking help at all. The abuse faced by an LGBTQIA+ individual can be extremely damaging because this abuse is often compounded with prior bullying, abuse, and discrimination based on their identity.

These barriers and unique challenges faced by the queer community when it comes to seeking refuge from an abusive relationship, make it imperative that the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals be on the forefront of the domestic violence and sexual assault awareness movement.

Family Safety Network prides itself in having our doors open to any individual needing our services. However, we cannot be truly successful in this mission without actively working to make the queer experience a visible part of this movement. We want the LGBTQIA+ community of Teton Valley to know that our doors are always open. When you seek services from us, we will believe you, validate you, hear you, and support you. Our advocates are actively learning to become better providers of advocacy services to LGBTQIA+ clients, and we will make it a priority to center the queer experience in our outreach and educational materials to increase visibility and access.

If you or someone you know is an LGBTQIA+ individual in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help. Advocates at Family Safety Network are available 24/7 through our hotline at 208-354-SAFE (7233). Additionally, help can be found through a national LGBTQIA+ survivor support organization, The Network/ La Red. You can call their hotline at 617-742-4911 or access their website for more educational materials.