When he was punched in the face, Denis-Martin Chabot understood that he’d passed the point of no return with his soon-to-be ex-partner. In his novel Escales parisiennes (Parisian stopovers) this Québec journalist and writer examines conjugal violence. In playing with what is real and what isn’t, he lifts the veil on a phenomenon that is often seen as taboo, and very personal: dysfunctional romantic relationships between same-sex partners.
By Mélodie Descoubes
Between Taboo and Humiliation
There were few resources at that time for men in gay relationships who were victims of conjugal violence. Chabot knew this. But it was more because of apprehension over how others would see him that he didn’t seek help.
“I thought that no one would understand. I was ashamed. I was afraid that people would judge me.” When those close to the author would remark on marks on his body, he’d downplay the situation by pretending to be clumsy: “I tripped and fell, this is what happened…”
Even though sexually diverse relationships are more and more accepted by the general public, the topic of conjugal violence between men remains taboo. “I put a lot of humor in my book because I want to puncture a lot of preconceived notions and prejudices,” Chabot says.
“When you’re a man you can’t cry, you defend yourself, you don’t complain. Violence between men usually plays itself out in hits to the face.”
As attitudes have become more open, the number of resources and help services available has slowly increased. “A great deal of awareness raising has been done with the police, in Montréal. This kind of violence is now recognized. There are organizations like RÉZO that document and help the LGBTQ+ community,” the author says. “If you need help to get out of that sort of situation, go for it. Programs exist. There’s no shame in seeking support.”
Conjugal Violence by the Numbers
Statistics Canada says that 8% of homosexuals in this country report having been victims of conjugal violence. That’s double the self-declared rate among heterosexuals (4%).
From 2009 to 2017, Québec had one of the highest rates in the country in terms of violence between same-sex partners, at 4.2%.
According to the Clinique Psychologie Québec, psychological violence is the most common kind of conjugal violence: 12% of those in a relationship say they’ve been a victim.
SOS Violence conjugale:
RÉZO (health and well-being for gay and bisexual men, cis and trans):
CALACS (help centres for sexual assault victims):
West Island: 514-684-2198
Outside of Montréal: 1-877-717-5252
RMFVVC (association of women’s shelters for victims of conjugal violence):
Toll free: 1-800-363-9010