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San Francisco grapples with gay domestic violence


February 23, 1997
Web posted at: 7:40 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- For the first time, a United States city has hired an advocate to help people cope with gay domestic violence.

As part of this effort, San Francisco is launching a public awareness program and is training police how to spot and address gay domestic violence, an area that has never been a traditional law enforcement priority.


"If we are serious about eradicating battering in heterosexual communities, we have to be as serious about eradicating violence in gay communities," gay activist Crystal Weston said.

Many gays are distrustful of the straight world and believe their culture is widely misunderstood. So they are reluctant to confess to a stranger in the event they are beat up by their gay partners.

"They feel embarrassed and ashamed in airing any more dirty laundry to any enemies that would undermine what we already have," Weston said.


Gays who go to the police, especially men, sometimes find officers are reluctant to deal with the situation.

For instance, David Carter said police were unresponsive when he told them that he had been stalked and beaten by a former lover.

"They did find it a bit surprising that you couldn't just punch this guy out," he said. "I believe same sex domestic violence is couched as just two guys having an argument."


Added Susan Breall, district attorney of the city's domestic violence unit: "For years police officers assumed it was just a mutual combat situation and didn't do the necessary investigative work to perhaps save a life."

Men aren't the only ones committing battery among gays. Women -- gay or straight -- often find it difficult to contact authorities about violence.

For men or women, the program's goal remains the same: to help the straight world to address the consequences of an often unacknowledged problem.


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