BGLTSA Hosts Domestic Violence Talk

Organization provides support for same-sex domestic violence victims

CORRECTION APPENDED

A small knot of students sprawled on the couches and floor cushions in the basement of Thayer Hall last night to discuss the issue of same-sex domestic violence. The event was hosted by Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) as well as the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP).

Six attendees munched on pita chips and biscotti, which shared table-space with informative pamphlets and complimentary condoms, during GMDVP’s presentation. John C. “Curt” Rogers, who founded the project, crouched comfortably at the center of the room and explained how he conceived of the state-wide organization 12 years ago, after fleeing an attempted murder in a former relationship and then being denied domestic violence support services.

“The images of domestic violence that have been thrown out to us are heterosexual, of the woman being the victim and the male being the perpetrator,” he said.

Rogers scrawled out on poster-board the stigmas of the term “domestic violence,” calling it “terribly misleading” and “heterosexist.” He redefined it as “one person systematically abusing another to gain power and control in an intimate relationship.”

Also representing GMDVP was an anonymous survivor of gay domestic violence who commenced the event by sharing his account. He stared mostly at his lap as he revealed how a past relationship had morphed from one filled with cooking and country music to one filled with 82 hospital visits and broken bones. He said his jaw was broken when his boyfriend pushed him downstairs and that he still takes medication daily to control ulcerations in his intestines, vestiges of the abuse.

“I never made the logical progression to realize that I, as a gay man, was a victim,” he said.

Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Director Sarah Rankin, who also attended the discussion, said that “there’s a general lack of awareness about anything outside mainstream sexual violence.”

“It’s useful to give dialogue space to different types of survivors of sexual assault,” said BGLTSA co-coordinator Ryan R. Thoreson ’07, who organized the event.

According to Rogers, GMDVP is the state’s only organization that caters to domestic violence victims in non-heterosexual relationships. It currently offers a three-bed safehouse, a 24-hour hotline, court-accompaniment, legal protection, and policy advocacy.

Rogers also began the first study of this type of violence, surveying 2,000 attendees of the annual Boston Pride Parade. While the results indicate abuse analogous to that in the heterosexual community, Rogers said he hopes for funding for more sophisticated studies.

The anonymous victim who spoke speculated near the meeting’s end that he might have taken action if he had been more educated about the problem.

Rogers said he hopes to promote this education through his organization, which currently relies on state and private funding and gives about 10 presentations each month.

—Staff writer Erin F. Riley can be reached at eriley@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION
The Feb. 27 news article "BGLTSA Hosts Domestic Violence Talk" contained several inaccuracies.  It incorrectly stated that BGLTSA hosted an event with the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project last night addressing the issue of same-sex domestic violence. In fact, the BGLT Resource Center hosted the event, not BGLTSA. The article also incorrectly identified Ryan R. Thoreson '07 as the co-coordinator of BGLTSA. In fact, Thoreson is the co-coordinator of the BGLT Resource Center. The article also incorrectly stated that the event's speaker appeared anonymously. In fact, the speaker's name is Dennis Berounsky and he did not appear anonymously. The article also incorrectly quoted John C. “Curt” Rogers as saying that the definition of domestic violence is "heterosexist." In fact, he said that the definition of domestic violence is gender-neutral, and that the system for addressing domestic violence is heterosexist. Finally, due to an editing error, a quote given by Harvard's Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Director Sarah Rankin was incorrectly attributed to Rogers in a pull-out quotation in the print edition.