Opinion » Guest Opinion

Domestic violence programs respond to the death of José Aponte

by Submitted by Casa Myrna, The Network/La Red, Jane Doe Inc.
Thursday Jan 12, 2023

The alleged domestic violence homicide of José Aponte, 43, in his Roxbury home on December 11, 2022, underscores the need for broader education and awareness about intimate partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) communities. Aponte, who was found dead during a wellness check that day, was dating Michael Perry, 37, who has been arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on a charge of first-degree murder. Perry was previously arraigned on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Early news reports focused on the sensational escape attempt by Perry and omitted that the men were in a relationship, thus obscuring that this was domestic violence-related.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Jose Aponte's murder and send our condolences to his loved ones," said Casa Myrna CEO Stephanie Brown. "This preventable tragedy highlights the prevalence of domestic violence in all communities and demonstrates the importance of education and awareness. Partnering with The Network/La Red and Jane Doe Inc., we strive to break the stigma around domestic violence and help survivors feel more empowered to ask for support."

This is the second suspected LGBTQ+ partner abuse-related homicide in Massachusetts in the past three months. Generally, 25-33% of LGBTQ+ people experience abuse by a partner, much the same rates as in cisgender heterosexual relationships. However, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's 2022 "COVID-19 Community Impact Study" noted that experiences of intimate partner violence were reported two to four times more frequently since the start of the pandemic by LGBTQ+ respondents. This is similar to the Human Rights Campaign 2020 report, "LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence and COVID-19," that indicated "LGBTQ people have been twice as likely to have experienced an incident of intimate partner violence since the onset of COVID-19. While 68% of the general population sample who have experienced intimate partner violence since the onset of COVID-19 said the pandemic has increased the duration and frequency of such violence, this was greater (77%) among LGBTQ respondents."

While these reports may focus on physical violence, in reality, what many call "domestic violence" is a much broader constellation of behaviors. "It's about one person using a pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over a partner's thoughts, beliefs, actions, and/or spirit," said Beth Leventhal, Executive Director of The Network/La Red. "The tactics used to control include emotional and psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and/or cultural/identity abuse."  Abuse can occur in intimate relationships between people of any age, ethnic group, profession, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, regardless of whether they are married or living together.

Individuals experiencing abuse are not alone, and there are resources across Massachusetts available to help. Two organizations specialize in working with LGBTQ+ individuals. The Network/La Red works statewide with LGBTQ+ survivors of partner abuse, offering free services including a 24-hour hotline, safety planning, support groups, safe home, transitional housing, and individual advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ survivors of partner abuse. Fenway Health's Violence Recovery Program (VRP) provides free counseling, support groups, advocacy, and referrals to survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, hate violence, and police misconduct.

"Domestic and sexual violence thrive in silence and often result in isolation and increased vulnerability," said Toni K. Troop, Director of Communications and Development at Jane Doe Inc. "We urge anyone who is concerned for themselves or someone they know to turn to a trusted advocate at a rape crisis center or domestic violence program to talk about what you need, available resources, and options."

Casa Myrna, The Network/La Red, and Jane Doe Inc. remain committed to supporting survivors of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

If you are concerned about your relationship or the relationship of a friend or family member, call:

The Network/La Red's statewide hotline at 1-800-832-1901 or visit www.tnlr.org.

SafeLink, Casa Myrna's statewide domestic violence hotline, at 1-877-785-2020 or visit www.casamyrna.org.

You can learn more and find help in a community near you at www.janedoe.org/findhelp.

All calls are free, anonymous, and confidential. You don't have to leave or even want to leave your partner to get support