3rd April 2018
Michelle, a volunteer with the Supernova Project tells us more about this ambitious and pioneering global initiative.
“The name Supernova came to me when I was watching a Brian Cox documentary on the cosmos. Something flashed in my head when I learned that Supernovas (i.e. the last stage of the death of a star) are the only place in the entire universe that are hot enough to produce complex molecules such as carbon. And carbon forms the basis of all known life. It was quite beautiful that this seemingly awful thing is happening as a star dies, but it’s only through that can we truly gain life. And as a victim of familial abuse myself, it resonated a lot with me — the idea of life beginning at the end of something.”
– Maryam Amjad, founder of the Supernova Project
The standard narrative of domestic abuse in a romantic relationship goes a lot like this: a stronger male physically assaults a weaker female. Fearing for her life and/or paralyzed by love for her partner, the female doesn’t leave; she instead holds fast to the idea that it was a “one time thing” and “it won’t happen again.” Most recently, we’ve seen it with Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård on the mini-series Big Little Lies, but also with Rihanna and Chris Brown; with Liverpool FC’s Jon Flanagan and his girlfriend Rachael Wall. It is a powerful narrative, and an important one to discuss – but it’s hardly the only one. Enter the Supernova Project.
The Supernova Project falls under the wider organisation, Chayn, a “volunteer network tackling gender based violence globally by creating intersectional survivor-led resources on the web.” Although Chayn carries a lot of information resources about domestic abuse, we identified the need to create resources specifically for the LGBTQIA+ communities so that their experiences were also reflected, therefore empowering LGBTQIA+ individuals to recognise any patterns of abuse in their own relationships.
The Supernova Project is a volunteer-led initiative that aims to sharpen the idea of what domestic abuse looks like in LGBTQIA+ relationships. To be sure, it does, at times, resemble that which is described above. A 2010 American study, The National Intimate Partner Violence Survey, found that 26% of gay men and 38% of bisexual men experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, relative to 29% of heterosexual men. They also found that a staggering 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women had experienced the same thing, compared to 35% of heterosexual women.
So what is it about queer relationships? Quite telling is the share of LGBTQIA+ respondents who experienced psychological aggression within an intimate relationship: 63% of lesbians and 76% of bisexual women, along with 60% of gay men and 54% of bisexual men, compared with 48% of heterosexual women and men, reported experiencing this kind of violence in their lifetimes. One reason for this is the constant threat of outing, which is less common in heterosexual relationships due to the relatively small taboo of being part of a straight couple worldwide. Particularly in non-Western nations, the consequence of sharing the existence of a relationship with one’s loved ones can be life-threatening - for example, the primary punishment for homosexual behaviour in Pakistan is death. The hiding or withholding of hormones which a transgender person may take as part of their transition or gender expression is also a form of abuse which cis-gendered individuals are unlikely to be subject to.
The secrecy with which LGBTQIA+ relationships must be carried out can lead to enhanced feelings of isolation amongst abuse victims, even more so than already exists in heterosexual couples. Though we are not currently in a position to offer any location specific services, the Supernova Project understands the importance of accessing local services, and endeavours to signpost to different organisations across the world who may be able to offer more personalised support to individuals who need it. Further, we have included a “Leave this site” button, which immediately redirects users to a different webpage. This feature may be critical to the safety of users who are looking at the website in secret and may need to leave the site quickly if someone, such as their abusive partner, suddenly looks at their screen.
The Supernova Project launched in July 2017, and received wide press coverage upon its launch. There is, as ever, always more to do. The Supernova Project is an entirely volunteer run initiative and we are always looking for volunteers to help with tasks such as building relationships and partnerships with relevant service providers; gaining coverage in the media; developing new resources for different groups within the LGBTQIA+ communities and more! Our volunteers come from a multitude of different backgrounds and experiences and we welcome volunteers from any country, (professional) background, of any age, gender and sexuality. We only ask that you fall in line with our values of providing non-discriminative help to the LGBTQIA+ community regarding information and support to survivors, and their friends and family, of domestic abuse.
If you are interested in volunteering for the Supernova Project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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