When Esme (they/them/theirs) and Andi (she/her/hers) met, sparks flew. For the first time in a long time, Esme went out with friends for a night of fun. They had been feeling down and didn’t want to go out, but felt they needed it. When Andi approached and took an interest, Esme’s heart skipped a beat. Esme and Andi spent the evening talking about their shared love of dogs, hiking, and motorcycles. Very soon after, Andi wanted the relationship to move fast. Esme wasn’t entirely comfortable with how quickly it was moving, but they went along with it because they were in love. After just 2 dates, Andi was kicked out of her house and needed somewhere to live. Esme felt hesitant to move in together so quickly, but Andi didn’t have anywhere else to go. Hesitantly, Esme let Andi move in.
At first, Esme thought it was sweet when Andi started asking detailed questions about where they were going all the time. Then, Andi started checking Esme’s phone to see who they were talking to and texting. One night while arguing, Andi said, “You aren’t a real man” and began belittling Esme’s masculine clothing. Esme wanted the fight to stop so they apologized to Andi, but Esme felt hurt and sad. They thought: How could Andi say such awful things and also claim to care about them at the same time? After this argument, Andi doted on Esme, making their favorite meal and showering them with affection. Esme figured the argument must have just been a one-time thing.
A month later, after 2 more similar heated arguments, Andi told Esme that if they didn’t start acting more like a “real woman,” she would tell Esme’s family about their gender. Esme knew that this would cause an uproar with their family and, because they were scared, Esme complied with Andi’s demands. The demands became bigger and bigger over time till Esme felt like they had no idea who they were anymore. One evening, Andi screamed at Esme and called them derogatory names. Esme became so scared that they threatened to call the police. Andi told Esme that if they did call the police, they would never take Esme seriously because of Esme’s appearance.
If Esme or Andi were a friend of yours, what would you do?
Relationship abuse is not a topic that anyone wants to talk about; however, abuse thrives in silence. If you suspect that you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, please talk to someone. Whether that someone is a friend or a professional at a domestic abuse agency, breaking the silence is the first step in stopping the abuse. Breaking the silence can provide much needed support, validation, and (hopefully!) perpetrator accountability.
Current research on abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships is woefully lacking, yet the studies that do exist have shown that abuse happens in LGBTQ+ relationships with at least as much, if not more, frequency as heteronormative relationships. Abuse is rooted in power and control dynamics where one partner exerts power and control tactics over the other. When most people think of relationship abuse, they equate it to physical violence such as hitting, kicking, punching, etc. However, other more subtle behaviors are also considered emotional abuse, and are just as harmful. These abusive behaviors include: name calling, gas-lighting, stalking, social isolation, financial means restriction, ridiculing or preventing someone from practicing their religion/spirituality, identity denial, and so much more. LGBTQ+ folks have historically experienced many barriers to safety when seeking services at shelters and domestic violence agencies due to some of them not being welcoming or informed of specific needs of the community.
Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley wants you to know that you are not alone. We offer information, resources, shelter and advocacy in a safe, nonjudgmental space for adults and children affected by abuse regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We aim to help those affected by abuse in intimate partner relationships live lives free of violence, abuse, and intimidation. We are also here to help support folks with friends and family members who are in abusive relationships.
By BreAnne Meyer
Legal Advocate at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley
Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley
PHONE: 24-hour crisis line
DROP IN: OUT Boulder Longmont
OFFICE: 82 21st Ave Suite A, Longmont, CO
M-F 9a – 5p