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Two months into their relationship, Chris's boyfriend José pushed him to the ground in a fit of anger and ripped the clothes off his body."We had gone out dancing, and when we got home, I was changing in front of him," said Chris, 34."I had on my favorite pair of underwear; it was the pair I had worn the first time we went out.He saw the underwear, and just flew into a rage, saying, 'How dare you wear those! '"José threw him on the floor of their bedroom closet, and smashed the only light bulb in the room, leaving them in darkness.
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"He's not a stupid person," Sam told me over Skype.
"He never hit me or threw things directly at me, but he would frighten me enough to make me back down."According to Sam, David became increasingly controlling after they moved in together, three or four months into their relationship.
"The idea that a woman can be the one who's abusive throws a wrench in the traditional view," Valentine said.
"The idea that only men can be batterers makes it a lot harder for men to get access to shelter."Yejin Lee, an associate at the Anti-Violence Program in New York City, said that the assumption of heterosexuality has been a huge stumbling block for gays and lesbians seeking refuge from an abuser.
They all identify as homosexual, and they all have had experiences with physically or psychologically abusive partners who left them financially, mentally, or emotionally damaged.
Domestic violence—or as it's often referred to today, intimate partner violence—is usually discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships.
As a mental health counselor with the Violence Recovery Program in Boston, Jessica Newman says that because the default assumption is that people are straight, there can be an attitude within shelters that a gay person somehow “deserved” the violence.
"Same-sex relationships are often demonized or marginalized," she said, "So some people's attitudes are 'it serves you right.'"But Newman, Lee, and Valentine all added that there are also internal factors that keep a cover of darkness over the issue of domestic violence in the gay community."There can be a fear of making the community look bad," said Newman.
That was the first time things had ever turned violent between the two."I was in such a state of shock," Chris recounted seven years later, his fingers tapping at a wine glass stem and his brown eyes drifting.