LGBT Individuals and Sexual Violence

lgbt-flag374.jpg

A person of any gender or sexual orientation can be sexually assaulted. Although violence exists within LBGT communities, it is also important to understand that Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender people are also targeted for sexual violence based on their sexual orientation and all people, regardless of sexual orientation, can be targets based on their perceived gender expression. In these cases sexual violence is used as a form of control to maintain heterosexism.

  • Same-sex sexual assault may include non-consensual vaginal or anal penetration, oral sex, touching, or any other type of sexual activity
  • Same-sex sexual assaut can happen on a date, between friends, partners, or strangers.
  • Same-sex survivors are even less likely than other survivors to report the assault to the police or seek counseling after it occurs
  • Most survivors of same-sex assault report additional barriers to seeking support which leads to very little data complied about same-sex violence

Regardless of the sexual orientation of the perpetrators or survivors, it is important to remember that sexual assault is sexual contact without consent. No one asks for it or deserves it. Survivors of all sexual orientations say that they have difficulties resuming or starting new intimate relationships because sexual contact triggers memories of the assault. In many cases, survivors say that intimacy—emotional or sexual—makes them feel guarded and ashamed.

Intimate Partner Violence

If you are being abused by an intimate partner of the same-sex, you may experience a broad range of feelings including denial, confusion, and shame. Women who have been assaulted by another woman may believe that it isn’t possible for a woman to rape another woman; that sexual assault is only perpetuated by men. In many cases, this stems from a belief that lesbian sex is not “real sex.” The misconception then follows that if lesbians aren’t considered able to have sex then they certainly cannot sexually assault one another. This is not true. Considering that men are taught from a young age that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness, gay men may have feelings of shame or inadequacy connected to being sexually assaulted that make them reluctant to admit or report their assault. In order to understand same-sex sexual assault and to work toward its prevention, it is important to acknowledge and commit to challenge homophobia and transphobia.

Common Barriers for Same-Sex Survivors

  • Not being taken seriously or having their experience minmized
  • Not having their experience called sexual assault or rape
  • Having to explain their experience in more detail than one would ask a heterosexual survivor or a survivor of male-female assault
  • Having to educate those they reach out to
  • Having their experience sensationalized
  • Increasing people's homophobia or being seen as a traitor in their community because they told their story to straight people
  • Mistakenly being seen as the perpetrator
  • Being blamed for the assault
  • Not being understood
  • Being treated in a homophobic manner by police, hospital staff, rape crisis center, counselors and others
  • Being "outed" (having their sexual orientation revealed without their consent)

Adapted from materials from Emily McWilliams, MS, and "Support for Survivors-Training for Sexual Assault Counselors" California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1999

Hate Crimes

A hate crime is a crime in which the perpetrator intentionally selects a victim because of his or her actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender expression or identity, disability, or sexual orientation.

Homophobia in our culture puts LBGT people at greater risk for sexual assault and other forms of violence. It is common for perpetrators to use sexual violence as a way to humiliate someone for being LBGT. These violent acts express the perpetrator’s believe that an LBGT person is not worthy of respect and dignity. It should be noted that a person can be the victim of an anti-LBGT hate crime yet identify as straight. If one is attacked because one either identifies as LBGT or is perceived as being a gay man or lesbian, then one is the victim of a hate crime. In these cases, perpetrators may verbally abuse their victims and imply that they he/she deserved to be sexually assaulted because he/she is perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Transgender students are particularly vulnerable to many forms of violence because of our culture’s discomfort with gender ambiguity and/or their perceived sexual orientation. In a relationship, abusers may leverage power over their transgendered partners by threatening to reveal their gender identity to others. Trans survivors of sexual assault or intimate partner violence may face increased barriers to accessing medical care and other assistance. Though staff at many agencies are well-trained at dealing with gender issues, this is not true everywhere.