LGBTQ Individuals and Sexual Violence

What Does LGBTQ Mean?

LGBTQ is used to refer collectively to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning/Queer people. These communities are made up of people from all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, age groups, religions and belief systems. Some may use the labels of LGBTQ to describe themselves, others may not use these labels. It is best to follow their lead with language and ask which labels they prefer. Click here for a comprehensive list of definitions related to LGBTQ communities.

Sexual Assault and LGBTQ Individuals

Sexual assault is not defined by the gender of the person offending or the victim. Anyone is capable of assaulting a person of any gender. The vast majority of perpetrators that commit assaults continue to be males. Sometimes it is difficult for a lesbian to discern if her assault was motivated by anti-lesbian violence or simply because she is a woman.

Same-sex sexual assault may include forced vaginal or anal penetration, forced oral sex, forced touching, or any other type of forced sexual activity. Same-sex sexual assault can happen on a date, between friends, partners, or strangers.

Because of the prejudice that they often face, same-sex victims are less likely than opposite-sex victims to report their assault to the police or seek support.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of their race, class, age, gender, appearance, or sexual orientation. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people are subject to the same spectrum of sexual violence as the general population.

Approximately 10% of hate crimes against gay men and lesbians include sexual assault (Comstock, Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men, 1991).

52% of participants in a study of sexual coercion in gay and lesbian relationships reported at least one incident of sexual assault or coercion. (Waldner-Haugrud, Lisa K., & Vaden Gratch, Linda. (1997). Sexual Coercion in Gay/Lesbian Relationships Descriptives and Gender Differences. Violence and Victims, 12 (1), 87-98.)

In general, situations of sexual assault that involve LGBTQ people are very similar to those that heterosexuals experience. However, there are concerns and factors that are unique in the experiences of LGBT people who are victims/survivors of sexual assault.

Unique Dynamics of LGBTQ Sexual Assault

In our culture, homophobia puts LGBT people at greater risk for sexual assault by strangers. It is common for perpetrators to use sexual violence as a way to punish and humiliate someone for being LGBT. A common example of this is when individuals who think they can “change” a woman’s sexual orientation target only lesbians and bisexual women for sexual assault.

Feelings of isolation after an assault can be heightened for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender survivors. Since many LGBTQ people already see themselves as isolated from “mainstream” culture, unsupportive family members or faith communities might increase these feelings of isolation.

Some lesbian women and transgender males may have determined that they have a low probability of becoming pregnant. Sometimes this means discontinuing birth control or losing track of menstrual periods. If a pregnancy results from an assault, this may cause added trauma.

Some LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence may feel a sense of vulnerability, that they’re being punished for being “evil” or “different,” or experience paranoia. These sense of violation may diminish their sense of self and may even cause sexual confusion.

Fears & Barriers

Fear of being “outed” (having one’s sexual orientation discussed or revealed without one’s consent) if they approach their family, the courts, or the police to report their sexual assault.

 

Feeling that they are betraying their LGBT community or seen as a traitor to their community, which is already under attack, by ‘accusing’ another LGBT person of sexual assault.

 

Fear of exposure to insensitive or homophobic responses from criminal justice and social support systems.

 

Not being taken seriously or having their experience minimized.

 

Not having their experience labeled as sexual assault or rape.

 

Having to explain how it happened in more detail than one would ask a survivor of an opposite-sex assault.

 

Having to educate those they reach out to.

 

Having their experiences sensationalized.

 

Having fewer people to talk to (because the LGBT community can be a small one that is tightly knit.)

 

Being blamed for the assault.

 

Not being understood or being blamed if it happened in an S&M environment.

Be a helpful partner, friend, and ally

Believe your friend or partner who has been raped.

 

Respect the need for confidentiality.

 

Avoid judgmental comments.

 

Control your own feelings of anger and/or frustration.

 

Ask how you can be helpful rather than giving unsolicited advice.

 

Respect their decisions even when yours might be different.

 

Be a good listener.

 

Be honest with yourself if you have trouble handling the aftermath of the rape.

 

Find other sources of support if this is the case.

 

Offer unconditional love and support.

 

Avoiding pressure to resume any form of sexual activity until initiated by your partner.

 

Victims/survivors of all genders, gender expressions, and sexual orientations benefit from these supportive responses.

Ways to Help

Believe the victim of the assault.

Respect their need for confidentiality.

Avoid judgmental comments.

Control your own feelings of anger or frustration.

Do not give unsolicited advice.

Be a good listener.

Connect them with helpful resources.

Offer unconditional love and support.