Individuals who have suffered incidents of intimate partner violence can connect with other survivors in a safe, supportive environment thanks to a new support group offered by The LGBT Health Resource Center.

The group begins on June 27 and operates in cycles of 20 weeks, with new enrollees joining at the beginning of the next cycle. The time and location of the group will be disclosed to participants upon enrollment. Individuals wishing to join the group should call 410-837-2050 ext. 8810 to schedule an initial assessment.

We caught up with Randall Leonard LCSW-C and Lauren Vaszil LCPC, LCADC, the group’s facilitators, to learn more.

What led the LGBT Health Resource Center to want to establish this group?

Lauren: We recognized that there was a need to provide these services in a skilled, safe way to the LGBTQ community, and that Baltimore currently didn’t have a group like this.

How significant an issue is intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community?

Randall: In the LGBT community, domestic violence occurs at rates at least equal to the rest of the population, and often higher. One recent study found that up to one-third of LGBT individuals will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. But all too often, that violence is downplayed and not openly discussed.

In addition to immediate physical harm, what long-lasting effects can such violence have on a person?

Lauren: The effects of domestic violence can last a very long time. Emotional pain caused by domestic violence can impact a person for the remainder of their life. These incidents can also have debilitating effects on an individual’s social and financial stability.

How will this group help address those effects and begin the healing process?

Randall: We want to shed a light on this issue, and together with the community, work toward reducing the rates of domestic violence in Baltimore. Our group will focus on the shift from victim to survivor, from trauma to resilience. Being connected with others, and developing relationships that provide support and caring, are very important tools in creating resilience following an incident of domestic violence.

If someone is facing a violent or potentially violent situation, what should they do?

Lauren: If someone faces the threat of violence, they should develop a plan for their safety. We understand that a person cannot always immediately flee their situation. But victim advocacy programs, such as those offered by Chase Brexton, The House of Ruth (, TurnAround ( or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, can help develop a plan of action to ensure their safety when they finally choose to leave the relationship. If active violence is occurring, we always encourage individuals to call 911, as domestic violence can very quickly escalate to lethal violence.

Most importantly, individuals need to know that they are not alone, and the abuse is not their fault. There is help, and here at Chase Brexton we can support individuals facing an unhealthy relationship.

The LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care is to provide LGBTQ individuals and their families with welcoming access to expert health information and resources that will enhance wellness and quality of life. For more information, visit