While the dialogue around domestic violence has proliferated in recent years, intimate partner violence in same sex and gender diverse relationships is still a largely hidden issue.
To help highlight this, Russ Vickery and his partner Matthew Parsons have developed a raw and personal one-man show depicting domestic violence in the LGBTI community.
Each night Russ has to revisit his experience onstage.
“I have to go back to that place because it’s the only way to talk about it realistically,” he says.
“You can’t treat it as therapy – you have to be healed, otherwise you couldn’t do this.”
The pair very much want to dispel the myth that domestic violence doesn’t exist in LGBTI relationships.
In fact, a small handful of submissions to Victoria’s 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence suggested that LGBTI people experience higher rates of domestic violence than heterosexual couples.
Matthew says that when he and Russ were creating the show, there were some members of the community who questioned whether it should go ahead in light of the then-looming same-sex marriage plebiscite.
“They were saying we would give ammunition to crazy haters, and we even found anti-marriage equality sites profiling our show,” he says.
“But we definitely wanted to shine a light and show that we have relationships just like everybody else, we have beautiful ones but they can also be toxic.
“But queer people have extra barriers. Minority stress can translate into a higher likelihood of someone becoming a perpetrator or victim in same-sex relationships, and the cause of that stress isn’t hard to find.
“We’re still having a debate about our worth and whether our love is equal.”
After its sell-out Sydney run, My Other Closet, the Cabaret was previewed in Melbourne last year to 300 domestic violence service providers as part of a training event created by Matthew.
The first of its kind, the event made a tremendous impact, enabling more services to become LGBTI inclusive and more LGBTI victims of domestic violence to access appropriate help.
During its Sydney run Russ said many people approached both himself and Matthew telling them how the show had opened their eyes to the reality of domestic violence in the queer community.
“We had six people we knew of that left relationships after seeing the show,” Russ says.
“I want people who may not even be in these toxic relationships to be aware that they exist and to look out for signs in their friends’ or families’ relationships and not be afraid to speak up.
Russ adds that the show is about awareness above all else.
“We talk about perpetrators taking responsibility for their behaviour without vilifying them,” he says.
“People who use violence in relationships need help as well.
“The key message is everyone deserves respectful relationships.”
One part entertainment, one part education and awareness campaign, the production gives a powerful and moving insight into the causes of domestic violence and how to end it.
My Other Closet, the Cabaret runs from 15 – 28 July at the Bella Union in Melbourne. It’s produced by MAROPA Productions in partnership with the Victorian AIDS Council, Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, Transgender Victoria, Drummond Street Services, and Switchboard.
To find out more and to book tickets visit: www.myotherclosetthecabaret.com