Intersex & Trans People and Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is characterized by the pattern in an intimate relationship in which one partner establishes and maintains power and control over another. It could take many forms: physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, economic, medical, spiritual, etc. Intersex and trans people often find themselves victimized by domestic violence, as abusers take advantage of oppressions against us to keep us scared and silent.
Why Should Intersex & Trans People Care?
Because domestic violence is our issue. While there are no definitive statistics showing the prevalence of domestic violence within intersex and trans communities (we don't even know how many of us there are to begin with), we at Survivor Project believe, based on our experiences and preliminary researches, that a disproportionately high percentage of intersex and trans people are survivors of domestic violence. This should be no surprise: in a society in which we are continuously told that we are abnormal, sick, crazy and unworthy, abusive partners can easily take advantage of our self-doubt, insecurities, shame, and other physical and emotional vulnerabilities.
When we are abused, it is harder for us to leave due to lack of resources, job and housing discrimination, and isolation from family networks. Intersex and trans people are frequently mistreated and abused by medical professionals, law enforcement and social service agencies, which leaves us without resources we can trust when we need their help the most. In addition, intersex children are often told that surgeries and other invasive medical interventions are necessary for them "to be loved" as an adult and we grow up thinking that we need to accept physical violations in order to be loved.
Here is a checklist you can use to help determine if you are in an abusive relationship. This list was adopted from several similar lists developed by different organizations, plus some questions specific to intersex and trans survivors added by Survivor Project.
Does your partner...
If any of these are happening to you, consider talking to someone you trust. Call a domestic violence hotline listed in the phone book, or have a friend call so that you won't get hurt further in case the one in your area turned out to be ignorant about intersex and trans issues. No matter what your partner and the society have told you - you do not deserve to be hurt. You deserve to be in a relationship where equality and mutual respect prevail.
Due to lack of visibility of and biases against intersex and trans people, domestic violence resources in your area may not be available or comfortable to you. Listed below are some tips for you to plan your safety, adopted from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence with some modifications. Go over your safety plan with a friend if possible, because doing it alone can be very scary.
If you are still in the relationship, you can...
If you have left the relationship, you can...
If you are leaving the relationship, you should take important papers and documents with you to enable you to apply for benefits or take legal action. Important papers you should take include social security cards and birth certificates for you and your children (even if they show the wrong name or sex), your marriage license, leases or deeds in your name or both yours and your partner's names, your checkbook, your charge cards, bank statements and charge account statements, insurance policies, documents related to transitioning, proof of income for you and your partner (pay stubs or W-2's), and the documentation of past incidents of abuse, if any (photos, police reports, medical records, etc.)
A Note About Dealing with Helping People
You may find that your local domestic violence agency offers you some help, but is not competent in dealing with issues specific to intersex or trans survivors. As a result, you may encounter uncomfortable situations. For example, they may get frustrated when you insist that you don't trust the legal system or doctors. They may not realize how likely the prospect of losing your child to the abuser is when you are trans. Or, you may be accepted into a shelter but staff members do nothing to stop harassment from residents and other staff members. Or they may tell other residents that you are intersex or trans in violation of your privacy. Not all programs that accept intersex and trans survivors actually educate themselves about the unique issues they face, and sometimes intersex and trans survivors are accepted into programs only to find that they are treated with ignorance and disrespect.
When this happens to you, remember that you are not crazy or paranoid even if someone tells you so. Oppressions against intersex and trans people are real, and other people can be hurtful to us without even realizing it. Consider telling them about the Survivor Project, and let them know that we are available to consult with any service providers willing to stretch themselves so that they can better serve intersex and trans people. We can be reached at (503) 288-3191 or P.O. Box 40664, Portland, OR 97240-0664.
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