Sexual Assault within the LGBTQ Community
Sexual assault and interpersonal violence can exist in any relationship and impact any individual, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexual assault may be used as a way to control and dominate another individual, and this can be done by women to other women, and by men to other men. While LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault experience the same concerns as any survivor, they also face unique issues and have special needs.
Same-Sex Sexual Assault
- As with opposite sex assaults, the assault may occur within the context of an otherwise consensual relationship.
- Same-sex assaults are less likely than opposite-sex assaults to be reported.
- LGBTQ individuals face ridicule and disbelief in different ways.
- There is often a tendency to attribute the assault to their sexual orientation.
- Same-sex individuals who experience violence may not report the assault due to fears of being “outed”, perceptions of police and care-givers as homophobic/biphobic/transphobic, fear of being seen as betraying the gay community, and lack of LGBTQ-friendly services
- Same-sex survivors experience the same emotional reactions, and are in need of the same support and intervention services, as opposite-sex survivors.
- May often experience a sense of betrayal and disbelief that a woman could assault another woman. May encounter individuals who do not believe that they were assaulted by another woman.
- Woman-to-woman assaults are often minimized or viewed as harmless “cat fights” with no real victim and no injury. This is inaccurate.
- Woman-to-woman assaults are rarely perpetrated by strangers, or by heterosexual women.
- Although there is typically no concern for pregnancy, there is the possibility of internal injuries and sexually transmitted infections.
- The most common form of male-to-male sexual assault is the assault of a man who is perceived to be gay by a heterosexual man.
- A heterosexual man who is sexually assaulted may begin to question his sexual orientation.
- Male-to-male sexual assaults also occur between gay men.
- Overt anger is a common reaction among males who experience violence.
- Male survivors may be reluctant to seek services as they perceive sexual assault services to be “for women only”.
- There is the possibility of internal injuries and sexually transmitted infections.
Barriers to Services
- Being “outed” during the reporting process.
- Mistakenly being seen as the perpetrator.
- Others’ assumptions that the abuse is a version of sexual behavior in the relationship.
- Misconceptions that violence in an LGBTQ relationship is “mutual.” This assumption is not made in heterosexual relationships.
- The perception that the LGBTQ community may not be supportive as they may want to maintain the myth that there are no problems of relationship violence within LGBTQ relationships.
- Fear of the LGBTQ community taking sides.
- Fear that they will not be believed when they report the assault.
- Lack of competent LGBTQ-friendly helpers who are sensitive to the concerns and unique needs of LGBTQ individuals. Having to explain the assault in greater detail than heterosexual individuals.
- Being treated in a homophobic/biphobic/transphobic manner by police and service providers.
Services are available on campus, and healing is possible. Talking to someone will help the healing process. Free and confidential services are available at the EIU Counseling Center (217-581-3413), SACIS (217-348-5033), and HOPE (217-348-5931). These resources have a tradition of providing informed, affirming, and supportive services to the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ Specific Websites