Q&A: Combating Abuse in LGBTQ+ Communities

Social Worker Emmanuel DeJesus, Victim Services Unit

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. However, studies show that those who identify as nonbinary or LGBTQ+ are likely to experience intimate partner violence at rates that are equal to or higher than heterosexuals. In this interview, Emmanuel DeJesus, a social worker in the Victim Services Unit, discusses his commitment to minimize the risk of abuse and provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ+ survivors and other marginalized groups in Brooklyn.

Tell us about your role in the Victim Services Unit. Why are you passionate about providing services to vulnerable groups in our community?

I am a social worker who specializes in working with male victims, including those who identify as LGBTQ. I work with diverse populations, including survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and families of homicide victims. In my role, I provide victim support through a trauma-focused, victim-centered, and strengths-based approach.

I am very passionate about supporting victims of crime because crime can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, or socio-economic status. I also understand how complex and confusing the criminal justice system can be. I am proud to provide any type of support that I can to ease the stress and discomfort for these victims. In this role, I am also privileged to provide training focused on male victims and survivors of crime in addition to training focusing on the LGBTQ community and the criminal justice system.

What can we do to better serve and support LGBTQ+ survivors?

I truly believe that preventative services are critical in disseminating information that can serve and support individuals before they find themselves in these types of relationships. Ensuring that communities across our city have information about services for these victims is crucial for them to know how to seek help and support.

DeJesus and members of the Victim Services Unit commemorate Victims’ Rights Week with an awareness event at Brooklyn Borough Hall on April 11, 2019.

What are some barriers to seeking services?

Some barriers that we have been working to combat within this community includes language barriers and stigmas against LGBTQ individuals. I am a native Spanish speaker, which has helped immensely when working with LGBTQ individuals who only speak Spanish and are able to share their experiences in their native language, without having to use language line. As someone who identifies as gay, I too have experienced stigma because of my sexuality. This has helped me to relate to victims in a greater capacity and enable a greater sense of rapport with victims. Tearing down these barriers has been a priority in my work and in my personal life.

Why is LGBTQ training important?

Providing LGBTQ training across Brooklyn, including social service agencies and law enforcement, is essential in combating biases and prejudices that exist within even those who are supposed to be protecting and supporting victims.

What’s your message to LGBTQ+ individuals who are experiencing domestic violence?

I would like to reiterate that you are a survivor. No matter where you are in your process, there are services and support available for you. One of the best parts of this job is that we are always available to assist with supporting survivors no matter how much or how little time has passed.

If you are experiencing domestic violence in our borough and need help, call the Brooklyn DA’s Domestic Violence Bureau at 718-250-3300 or New York City’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673). In an emergency, call 911.