June is recognized as Pride month, a time for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, pansexual, asexual, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, bigender, demisexual, intersex, and two-spirit people to celebrate their identities and histories. While there is a lot of amazing work to recognize and celebrate, there are also plenty of discrepancies in queer and trans folks’ abilities to access services. Services for sexual assault survivors are no exception.
From the Human Rights Campaign:
Sexual violence affects every demographic and every community – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience sexual violence at similar or higher rates than heterosexuals. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) estimates that nearly one in ten LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) has experienced sexual assault from those partners. Studies suggest that around half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes.
As a community, LGBTQ people face higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization, which put us at greater risk for sexual assault. We also face higher rates of hate-motivated violence, which can often take the form of sexual assault. Moreover, the ways in which society both hypersexualizes LGBTQ people and stigmatizes our relationships can lead to intimate partner violence that stems from internalized homophobia and shame.
Yet, as a community, we rarely talk about how sexual violence affects us or what our community’s unique needs are when it comes to preventing sexual assault and supporting and caring for survivors of sexual violence.
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found for LGB people:
44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women
26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men
46 percent of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17 percent of heterosexual women and 13 percent of lesbians
22 percent of bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner, compared to 9 percent of heterosexual women
40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of heterosexual men
Within the LGBTQ community, transgender people and bisexual women face the most alarming rates of sexual violence. Among both of these populations, sexual violence begins early, often during childhood.
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
Among people of color, American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) respondents of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey were most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime
Nearly half (48 percent) of bisexual women who are rape survivors experienced their first rape between ages 11 and 17.
For LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault, their identities – and the discrimination they face surrounding those identities – often make them hesitant to seek help from police, hospitals, shelters or rape crisis centers, the very resources that are supposed to help them.
Queer and Trans Survivors are Welcome at Verity
Survivors of all genders and sexual orientations are welcome at Verity and will be met with support and compassion. All of our staff members and volunteers are trained to support LGBTQ survivors, and many of our volunteers and staff members openly identify as members of the LGBTQ community. For all the reasons below (and so many more) Verity staff will always support the choices and actions of queer and trans survivors on their paths towards healing and justice, whether or not it involves the police, their families, or any other entity.
One reason a queer or trans survivor of sexual violence may not report the violence or seek services is that someone is in the closet.
Some survivors have been questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity long before an assault took place; for others, the assault may have them questioning their orientation or identity. For many people, it is not safe to openly identify as queer or trans, so it may seem less traumatizing to stay quiet about both the abuse and their identity.
Other members of the LGBTQ community are assaulted by closeted members of the community; choosing to name an assailant is already a risky step for many survivors, and outing an assailant can be seen as causing more harm to the community. It may also be harder for a queer or trans survivor who was assaulted by their partner to get out of the relationship, as they may not have friends and family who are accepting of their identity and willing to help them.
Another reason a queer or trans survivor may not report the violence or seek services is the perceived detriment to the LGBTQ community.
For decades, queer and trans people have been fighting the view that all queer and trans people are child molesters, abusers, and predators. Until very recently, queer and trans folks could not be teachers (and many still find it hard to find a supportive school or district to teach in!) because of this notion and the strong reactions to it. A queer or trans person who was assaulted by another person in the LGBTQ community may take pause before accusing someone of sexual violence because of the community’s long history of being painted in an abusive and villainous light; homophobia and transphobia do not need more fodder, and queer and trans folks understandably do not want to incite more violence and hatred toward their community.
Another reason a queer or trans survivor may not report the violence or seek services is that society believes men cannot be raped.
Male survivors who were assaulted (whether by a man, a woman, or someone outside the gender binary) may not be believed because of people’s mediocre grasp on what constitutes sexual violence. Our society’s ideas of masculinity may cause many men to be wary of seeking services and being seen as “weak,” especially when queer and trans men’s masculinities are constantly under scrutiny.
Another reason a queer or trans survivor may not report the violence or seek services is fear of discrimination from law enforcement or a service provider.
Many queer and trans folks have experienced discrimination or ignorance from either law enforcement, medical staff, counselors, service providers, and other people a survivor might turn to for support. The fear of being met with discrimination and prejudice is not unfounded. In fact, the sexual violence itself may have been a hate crime in and of itself, making a survivor all the more wary of seeking support from a service they perceive as outside of the LGBTQ community.
If you or someone you love is a survivor of sexual violence, please do not hesitate to call our hotline at (707) 545-7273 any time, day or night. We are here for you.