Domestic violence also happens in same-sex relationships, says Calgary survivor

·3 min read
Before finding longer-term accommodation at Discovery House, Mary and her nine-year-old daughter lived in two emergency shelters for 11 weeks once they left their violent situation. (Shutterstock - image credit)
Before finding longer-term accommodation at Discovery House, Mary and her nine-year-old daughter lived in two emergency shelters for 11 weeks once they left their violent situation. (Shutterstock - image credit)

After coming out 15 years ago, Mary thought she wouldn't be subject to domestic violence.

But two years into an abusive same-sex relationship, she took her nine-year-old daughter on a -35 C winter night and found refuge at an emergency shelter.

They lived in two different shelters for nearly three months before Mary got a call from Discovery House, a Calgary organization that helps women and children rebuild their lives after fleeing domestic violence through various programs and long-term accommodations.

It has become her home for the last couple of years.

"They make sure that they remember who I am and what my story is. I'm not just a number. I'm not just another person that's part of the program," said Mary, whose real name is not being used to protect her identity.

Submitted by Leslie Hill
Submitted by Leslie Hill

The organization connected her with its eight-week women's wellness program — a peer support program designed to help women focus on their healing, rooted in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).

Leslie Hill, executive director of Discovery House, says the program helps women identify how their bodies are experiencing trauma and allows them to talk about the experiences they've had

It also covers topics like self-care, self-compassion, self-esteem and emotional regulation.

"Lots of times, the women in the program stay connected to each other after they're finished."

Now, after participating in the program, Mary has plans to become a counsellor to help others who are going through what she went through — especially those in the LGBTQ community.

Domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships

According to a 2019 Statistics Canada report, Canada had 651,484 police-reported incidents of intimate partner violence from 2009 to 2017 — three per cent of which involved same-sex partners.

Mary says it's an issue that needs to be talked about.

In the relationship she fled, her partner stole her passport and other important documents, hacked into her social media and bank accounts and changed the passwords and started becoming physically violent.

"It's something that people are having a hard time wrapping their head around acknowledging within the community, and with the community," she said.

In violent heterosexual relationships — which she has also experienced — Mary says women are often perceived as being weaker and unequal. But that isn't the case in same-sex relationships.

She says she's been in three same-sex relationships, and two of them were domestically violent.

"They can completely take you for all your worth and you would still look at them and love them. But in a same-sex relationship, it's so much more defeating because you feel like you have the power to resist."

It's important for others to recognize that domestic violence can happen to anyone, not just those in male and female relationships, Mary says.

Giving back as a counsellor

With the help of Discovery House, Mary is working on going back to school to become a counsellor.

The idea was inspired by other women in her peer support group, who told her that her words were wise and beneficial.

She says her peers made her feel like her experiences deserved to be shared because they could also help others.

"I feel like I will have the ability to do what I want to do and be successful at it."

Hill says she's heartened by Mary's story.

"When women come into our services, they're experiencing a lot of crisis. They're trying to help their kids move into new schools and find a doctor sometimes and make sense of the experience that they've had."

This is why it's important for her to connect women and children with the right programs.

"They have a chance to feel and to process what they've experienced and to move forward. And I think Mary's story really speaks to that."

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