The Office of Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) hosted a meeting for students to learn about issues affecting LGBTQ+ couples at the new Women and Gender Equity Resource Center on Thursday.
Located on the second floor of the breezeway above the food court, the Women and Gender Equity Resource Center provides services such as a lactation room for student mothers, referrals for resources and an open space to gather and relax.
The space is still not completed, but is already being utilized for talks and activities. Thursday’s seminar called, ‘It’s Not What You Think,’ discussed misconceptions associated with same-sex dating.
Abuse can come in multiple forms, explained Whitney Hagen, the LGBTQ Program’s coordinator and psychologist at the Counseling Center. It can be about physical harm, manipulation, explicit sexual assault, financial abuse and emotional harm.
A common misconception is that women can’t be perpetrators of violence because they’re “sugar and spice and everything nice and can’t hurt each other,” Hagen said.
The same goes for men, who are often labeled as the perpetrators. Therefore, any conflict between two in a same-sex relationship is seen as a “fair fight,” she said.
These notions stretch into the LGBT community as well, to the point where somebody in an abusive same-sex relationship may not see that anything is wrong due to preconceived beliefs about gender and relationships.
According to Hagen, 21 percent of men and 35 percent of women in LGBT relationships have experienced intimate partner violence as opposed to the 7 percent of men and the 20 percent of women in straight relationships.
Almost 35 percent of transgenders were reported to have endured abuse as well.
Despite the numbers, it is difficult for members of the LGBT community to be able to seek help when they are in an abusive relationship. Hagen cited two likely reasons: fear of their partner and fear that law enforcement may not take a report as seriously if the individuals are in a such a relationship.
The FAU Police Department is currently taking steps to address these concerns. Jonathan Ponce is a former FAU student and the LGBTQ+ liaison for the campus’ police department.
“It’s something that we’re starting and that the police department feels very passionate about,” Ponce said.
Ponce explains that his experience with police after coming out was positive and that this department will not discriminate. FAUPD has not reported any same-sex violence cases, according to Ponce, but that doesn’t mean that none are happening.
“We want to connect with the community and we want to help out,” Ponce said. “We’re starting little by little.”
Another complication to getting help is intersectionality, said Artie Jamison, the Director of the Office of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs.
Intersectionality is the overlapping and interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, according to Merriam-Webster.
Factors like race, class, gender and sexuality must also be taken into account, explained Jamison. Each case is unique and must be addressed differently because these labels can compound challenges and make support harder for obtain for certain people.
It may seem cute, an “us against the world” situation, said Jamison, but people need an outlet to be an individual while “complementing each other as a couple.”
Candace Harrinarine, Victim Services Coordinator of the Dean of Student’s Office, agreed that there’s a borderline between being cute and being controlling. When this or other types of abuse happen, administrators say they want students to not be afraid to rely on them.
“We’re not scary,” Jamison said, and Harrinarine laughed, perched on her green beanbag.
“Yeah. We’re human. We’re sitting on beanbags!…We’re here,” Harrinarine said.
FAU’s Victim Services are in the Wimberly Library in room 156 and the FAU police department is located on the north end of the Boca campus off NW 8th Avenue.
Hope Dean is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]