Can you spot an unhealthy relationship?

See our checklist and resources from a new, local LGBTQ+ program.

Identifying the signs of an unhealthy relationship can be harder than most people think. Behavior that in the beginning may seem to be caring and protective can be the start of an assertion of power.

Community Support

In our Southside community, the LGBT Life Center has created the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Program to support those affected by unhealthy relationships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines IPV as, “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse,” and that IPV is a “serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.”

Knowing that there is a clear need for a program of this kind in the LGBTQ+ community, Crisis Counselor Angela Duhon took action to create the first of its kind in the area.

“People need the guidance and the education, and it wasn’t out there. I could see through my clients that IPV was occurring,” Duhon says. “I could tell it was under-reported, especially in LGBTQ+ community.”

A Lack of Support

Finding help in a volatile relationship is a difficult step for most, though it’s even more challenging in the LGBTQ+ community. While historically support exists for those relationships that fit a more traditional model- one between a man and woman- research shows that IPV exits at the same rate, if not more, in the LGBTQ+ community.

Why is this the case?

There are several barriers blocking access to support and education. Firstly, there’s a good deal of skepticism in the LGBTQ+ community on what help they’ll receive from courts or law enforcement. Frequently they have faced insensitive views of the validity of their role as a victim or survivor.

A Fear of Being Outed

No one wants their personal lives spilled out for the world to see. Being outed is an incredibly sensitive subject for LGBTQ+ individuals who are in a relationship where the partner holds delicate knowledge over their heads.

“The terror of being outed is the biggest barrier to services,” Duhon says. “There are those offenders who will threaten to out the person to their employer, parents, siblings, and friends.”

Burden of Proof

Duhon sees a lot of emotional and sexual IPV in her role as a crisis counselor at the LGBT Life Center, with the emotional being much harder to spot.

Emotional abuse and control over someone may not leave a mark or make itself known to the human eye. Duhon’s work as a domestic abuse victim advocate with the Family Advocacy Program at Joint Base Langley-Eustis and national credential through The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), has given her the education and experience necessary to see what is truly going on.

Breaking Down the Barriers

Duhon has already taken many important steps to help break down the barriers to support and education. The CDC’s strategies to prevent IPV include the creation of a safe place, education and for support for victims, and teaching skills to promote safe and healthy relationships.

The LGBT Life Center is staffed with mental health counselors, and has relationships with other community service providers to make referrals for a variety of needs including legal and housing.

“The shelters here are fantastic, and the self-housing community for LGBTQ+ is awesome,” Duhon shares. “Same-sex IPV victims in Virginia used to have to go through the general district courts for a protective order, but now they have access through the juvenile and domestic relations district courts.”

Education and Support

Curious to know more about what the LGBT Life Center can do? The professionals at the center can:

  • Advise you of your victim rights.
  • Guide you through the process of getting a protective order
  • Accompany you to a court appearance, medical appointments, lawyer appointments, etc.
  • Make referrals with legal aid of Virginia
  • Provide education about boundaries, warning signs, and healthy relationships
  • Assist with housing/shelters
  • Help you create an exit plan

Educating the Community

Whenever and wherever Duhon can set up her table to educate about healthy relationships, she’ll be there. Whether she’s speaking at schools or during an event, she lets the people listening know that if they need her, to call her. Sometimes those who shake their heads at the question, “Are you in an unhealthy relationship?” may be the ones she hears from after they learn about the warning signs.

“I love what I do, but don’t always like that I have the position because that means people are getting hurt,” Duhon says. “But if I can educate just one person, so they don’t fall in that cycle, that’s amazing.”

IPV Statistics

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) reports that “nearly 1 in 4 adult women (23%) and approximately 1 in 7 men (14%) in the U.S. report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

The IPV data isn’t spread equally across all groups of individuals. Some sexual minorities have high levels of IPV victimization. The NISVS states that “61% of bisexual women, 37% of bisexual men, 44% of lesbian women, 26% of gay men, 35% of heterosexual women, and 29% of heterosexual men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking from an intimate partner in their lifetimes.”

The negative health and economic impacts of IPV are a global concern. Immediate and long-term effects are both medical and psychological, ranging from cardiovascular and gastrointestinal conditions that may become chronic to depression and PTSD.

Spotting IPV Checklist

IPV is a repeated pattern of power and control. See the warning signs below.

Is your partner:

  • Isolating you from friends and family?
  • Stalking: following, phone, email, showing up at work or where you are?
  • Leaving threatening messages and phone calls?
  • Repeatedly calling you names?
    Punching, slapping, pushing or intimidating you?
  • Do you have a fear of what the partner may do or react?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the LGBT Life Center can help. Please call us at 757-640-0929 and visit our website by clicking here.


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