PRIDE Month - Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence in the LGBTQIA+ Community
May 28th, 2021
Written by Samantha Riordan
June marks the beginning of PRIDE month; during this month, we want to talk about the misconceptions and misconstrued notions surrounding sexual assault and intimate partner violence within the LGBTQIA+ community. In recent years, we have seen momentum to support and uplift members of the LGBTQIA+ community and momentum to believe and stand up for survivors; however, conservations about survivors in the LGBTQIA+ community are lacking in our societal dialogue. Queer identifying individuals experience sexual assault at alarmingly high rates, as sexual assault and intimate partner violence often intersect with the marginalization of communities. We hope to debunk common myths surrounding sexual abuse in the LGBTQIA+ community and shine a light on the ways that oppressive mechanisms expand beyond heterosexual relationships-- keeping LGBTQIA+ people silenced and invalidated.
Statistically, intimate partner violence and sexual assault affect queer individuals at a higher rate than straight individuals. 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have been victims of rape, intimate partner violence, or stalking by an intimate partner within their lifetime; moreover, 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have been victims of rape, intimate partner violence, or stalking by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Comparatively, 35% of heterosexual women and 29% of heterosexual men have been victims of intimate partner violence. While we must continue to support straight survivors, we need to include LGBTQIA+ survivors in the narrative surrounding sexual violence advocacy.
Intimate partner violence is often incorrectly considered a “straight problem.” While heterosexual survivors and LGBTQIA+ survivors may face similar coercion tactics when it comes to power dynamics, gay and trans individuals face unique threats around sexual violence, largely in part to homophobia and stigmatization. For example, a perpetrator may threaten to “out” a closeted person to coerce them into non-consensual activity or as an emotional abuse tactic. Previous trauma due to bullying, harassment, or stigmatization may prevent queer individuals from seeking help after an assault has occurred. In the trans community, intentional misgendering or attacks on the validity of a person’s identity or expression are forms of abuse perpetrators use to silence and invalidate victims.
These unique struggles affecting the LGBTQIA+ community do not stop there. One of the reasons we need to center and include survivors of the queer community in the conversation around intimate partner violence and sexual abuse is not only because survivors can be of any sexual orientation, but also because queer survivors face barriers related to their identity when trying to receive help, justice, or treatment. Sometimes, staff, police officers, or other assistance providers exhibit implicit or explicit homophobia or transphobia that prevents individuals from seeking help. Implicit discriminatory remarks or actions may result from improper diversity, equity, and inclusion training, specifically those surrounding LGBTQIA+ topics. Moreover, members of the community may worry that bringing attention to the hardships that LGBTQIA+ people face in their own communities may pull away media and public attention away from important issues in the queer community have been fighting for all these years.
The reality in our world, even in 2021, is that LGBTQIA+ people have unique struggles that heterosexual individuals likely don’t. In the Catholic community I grew up in, high school and middle school teachers couldn’t be fired for being gay; however, they could be fired for divulging their orientation to students and staff. While that is gross discrimination, to begin with, it is so important to understand how this type of discrimination may serve as an advantage to perpetrators. By “outing” a gay individual in their workplace, a perpetrator could threaten their economic stability. For a trans individual who chooses to take hormones, withholding hormones to coerce an individual into an undesired act may occur in committed relationships. The list can go on and on…
Homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, implicit bias, microaggressions-- these things exist in our society, and when you add the ways that perpetrators can take advantage of the societal barriers set up to limit queer communities, especially queer survivors, we can start to change the heteronormative culture around sexual assault. If you do identify as straight, it is important to understand your privilege and educate yourself on these issues. Homophobia doesn’t just involve slurs and ridicule, discrimination towards LGBTQIA+ people intertwines with institutional problems and societal narratives that continue to silence queer survivors. During June, commit to educating yourself and serve as an advocate, for yourself and others.
RISE is committed to serving ALL survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Our staff is trained in LGBTQIA+ abuse tactics and we are here to support the LGBTQIA+ survivor community.
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