UT’s Queer Students Alliance began National Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a seminar focusing on defining healthy relationships Wednesday.
“No two relationships look the same, so domestic violence can be difficult to define, but it comes down to power and control,” said Erin Burrows, health education coordinator for Voices Against Violence, who led the presentation. “Domestic violence comes down to anytime you feel afraid of your partner, no matter the cause.”
About 40 students worked in groups to answer questions such as, “What does healthy communication look/sound like?” and “How do you take care of yourself in a relationship?”
English senior Tianhe “Zen” Ren, vice director of the alliance, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness about domestic violence within the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of domestic violence awareness focuses on heteronormative relationships,” Ren said. “We have to learn to recognize the signs of violence in LGBTQ relationships as well.”
Burrows said domestic violence within LGBTQ relationships can be difficult to define.
“Especially if someone hasn’t come out to their family yet, their partner may use their sexual orientation against them with homophobia, transphobia, etc.,” she said.
Burrows said physical or sexual violence is “just the tip” of the domestic violence iceberg, while verbal and emotional abuse often go unseen.
Ren said one step to reducing domestic violence would be to have more allies within the LGBTQ community promoting education and awareness.
“People feel uncomfortable coming to the Gender Studies Center or to QSA meetings because they feel others will assume they’re LGBTQ,” she said. “We just want more people to be aware and become allies for students who are LGBTQ.”
The group’s treasurer Rogelio Meza said an ally is anyone who personally supports the LGBTQ community.
“We want to educate people and bring awareness to the community,” Meza said. “It makes me happy to see non-LGBTQ students at our meetings supporting us and being willing to learn more.”
Meza said support is about more than just acceptance — it also means becoming more educated. He said sex education in schools often focuses only on heterosexual relationships.
“We want to bring LGBTQ awareness to the general populace as well as to LGBTQ students themselves,” he said. “Not everyone is the same and that’s a beautiful thing.”