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Monday 29 May 2017

Scratch the surface

Posted in: Our Communities
By Vaughan Meneses - 26th November 2011

In the hubbub of the election and the collection for World AIDS Day, it would have passed by many that Friday 25 November was also the White Ribbon Day for Violence Against Women.

It is no secret the majority of violence in relationships and families is perpetrated by men against women and children, but let’s not forget that in our community the violence does not always follow that pattern. It’s important to acknowledge that many people from our community experience violence from within the home and or peer groups because of their difference.

Many women and men from our community can tell you stories of violence they experienced as children in unsafe or homophobic and transphobic environments. Not all the violence we may have experienced may have been related to our sexuality or gender identity, some of it may have been just because we grew up in NZ, a country with a shameful history of violence. I myself grew up in an extremely violent environment that not only involved the violence of words and fists, but also guns and knives.

As we pause for thought let us think about how we are living right now. Lesbian women beat each other, gay men do the same. It’s a fact that no matter what political spin we put upon it, our adult experience of violence within a domestic situation is not that different to the story of the so called general population. But when was the last time that it even crossed our mind that one of our queer friends may be a victim or perpetrator of violence?

Violence is not a topic we willingly discuss in our Rainbow family. So how can we as a community start to provide a voice to this unseen travesty? What makes us think that we are beyond it or above it? Many people reading this may think things like: “I don’t know anyone affected by violence in their relationship”; “A women would never do that to another woman”; or “A gay man would never put up with it.” The sad thing is that these assumptions are wrong.

So, what will it take for us to actually notice what lies beneath the surface of the relationships of our friends? When you are experiencing violence how do you find someone to talk to? When you feel like hitting your partner what help is available? As you head into summer and spend time on the beach feeling the sand beneath your feet, take a moment to think about how many of our community would gladly bury their heads in sand rather than notice some of the ugliness that surrounds us. How many people in your life were victims or perpetrators of violence this year? Most of us won’t even know the answer, and have never asked the question. The hard cold fact is that we all know someone who has been affected by violence in the last 12 months, and it probably did not even cross our minds.

Speak up, reach out, find hope. When you love someone enough to care, you can love them enough to help. We are great at rationalising our own excuses not to make a difference, and experts at dodging uncomfortable situations. But next time someone seems a little off, or your instinct is not to believe what they tell you, then dig a little deeper, open a few more doors and be prepared to help. There may be nothing to it, but surely at the very least we will start raising awareness and consciousness. A person in an abusive relationship or environment is often living in fear and as each day goes by they can lose some belief and some hope. Losing hope is a dangerous thing; there is much to be said for the old adage: “Where there is hope there is life.”

It is a scary thing to reach out for help, and if no one is there we may end up drowning. Be a friend, use your ears, look with your eyes, and trust your instincts. With violence everybody hurts, victims and abusers. It is time to start ending the pain. It‘s not OK to let it keep going.

For more information on Domestic Violence:

Vaughan Meneses - 26th November 2011

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