Most incidents of domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQ+ community goes unreported. This is a fact widely known within the community, where LGBTQ+ folks are just as, if not more likely, to experience domestic abuse and sexual violence than their heterosexual counterparts. To say that LGBTQ+ victim survivors face unique challenges in seeking support when impacted by these experiences is an understatement--the stigma, shame, and widely held homophobic beliefs coupled with structural inequality and widespread hetero and cissexism, have made it nearly impossible for those impacted by violence to reach out for help.
Since its founding in 1987, the Anti-Violence Program (AVP) at Outfront Minnesota has run through the gamut of these barriers. From a lack of sensitivity and care shown by police officers who respond to domestic and sexual violence calls, to the continued refusal by many Minnesota shelters to accept male and transgender-identified survivors, we have truly had to become creative and adaptable. Our program has sent survivors to other states, orchestrated greyhound tickets, bought meals, found clothing, offered counseling, contacted immigration lawyers, advocated at conferences, called motels, stretched our fingers towards the furthest reaches of our networks--and still, some of our clients have not successfully received shelter, medical treatment, or assistance escaping violence. Some of our clients have stayed.
October begins National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we are immensely proud of the work we have done at OutFront Minnesota. Still, while it feels necessary to pause and honor LGBTQ+ victims/survivors and their incredible resiliency, it is difficult to think of our work as complete. While our unique services have served innumerable members of our community, we must also acknowledge how many LGBTQ+ victims/survivors remain invisible within our current systems. It is no secret that OutFront offers one of the only programs for LGBTQ+ survivors in the state of Minnesota, or that many survivors cannot enter shelter due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
As part of our continued mission to make our work more widespread, this month OutFront’s AVP program will be updating our social media once a week with educational materials, statistics, and stories from victim-survivors. We will continue to offer crisis intervention, limited emergency financial assistance, and peer counseling to the survivors who seek our support, as well as trainings throughout the metro area and greater Minnesota. It is our hope that by shedding light on what has been kept in the dark, we might begin to shift the culture of domestic violence work and help to facilitate a world where LGBTQ+ victim-survivors can feel safe, supported, and loved.