Gay vs. Gay 

Portland Lacks Services for Dealing with Gay Violence

THERE IS A GROWING mountain of data and anecdotes that suggest that gay men are victims of domestic violence just as often as people in heterosexual relationships. However, Portland still lacks services, such as shelters or crisis lines, to deal directly with the problem.

Pointing out that this dearth of resources is a self-perpetuating dilemma, social workers in Portland worry that gay men have no place to turn. Also, since instances of domestic violence are rarely reported, it makes the problem appear to be non-existent, even though social workers estimate that one out of four men in gay relationships are being abused.

After decades of silence and denial, the issue of battered men in gay relationships has begun to emerge. Sgt. Tom McGranahan from Portland Police Bureau Domestic Violence Unit says there were 515 reports of male-on-male domestic violence in 1999. He estimates that half of these reports related to boyfriends, while the others represent family disputes. What is most telling though is that according to a recent report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, a network of 25 nonprofit gay and lesbian organizations in cities like Boston, Denver, and San Francisco, these figures climbed as services to handle same-sex domestic violence became more accessible.

In Portland, some battered men turn to services like the Portland Women's Crisis Line, a well-respected program for abused women. Even though some gay men probably utilize the services of the Crisis Line, Executive Director Kris Peters explains that callers do not identify themselves as gay men.

Such silence contributes to the underreporting of the issue of gay violence. While experts believe that the scope of the problem remains hidden around the country, a spattering of services have begun to emerge in several progressive cities. In Los Angeles and Seattle, the police are trained to deal with identifying signs of violence in same-sex relationships. Cities like Boston, Tucson, and New York have teamed with hotels to provide limited nights of housing for battered gay men. And San Francisco has taken an unprecedented step in establishing the first shelter expressly devoted to gay men fleeing domestic violence.

But, of the five domestic violence shelters in Multnomah County, none provide refuge for battered men. Moreover, Roper, who works with Bradley Angle House, a local domestic violence shelter, explains that "many [shelter workers] see it as not their work." Another, very real barrier to providing resources for battered men is the lack of funding, says Roper. While he currently runs a queer youth support group, Roper indicates that services for men over 21 are limited. Most shelter grants are specifically for women and children, Roper points out.

Even so, earlier this summer, the Portland Women's Crisis Line began discussing the implementation of a safe-house program. Executive Director Peters indicated that these plans may include services for battered gay men.

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