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. People who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community often face different or additional challenges in accessing resources due to their identity. Though students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community report higher rates of sexual victimization while enrolled in college, they are less likely to report incidents than their heterosexual, cis-gendered peers. Although violence exists within the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to understand that LGBTQ+ persons 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.
Statistics (though statistics regarding sexual violence and interpersonal violence vary, it is likely that the rates below are higher due to barriers to reporting for the LGBTQ+ population)
- According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than one in four trans people have faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color.
- According to RAINN.org, 23.1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted while 50% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime.
- The CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf) dated 2010 found that:
- 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of straight women.
- 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29% of straight men.
- 46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians.
- 22% of bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner, compared to 9% of straight women.
- 40% of gay men and 47% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21% of straight men.
Common Barriers for LGBTQ+ Survivors
- Being “outed” during the reporting process (having their sexual, romantic, or gender identities revealed without their consent).
- Mistakenly being seen as the perpetrator.
- Others’ assumptions that the abuse is a version of sexual behavior in the relationship.
- Having to educate those they reach out to.
- Misconceptions that violence in an LGBTQ relationship is “mutual.” This assumption is not made in heterosexual relationships.
- The perception that sexual violence is only perpetrated by men against women. This misconception often stems from a belief that lesbian or gay sex is not "real sex" and therefore people of the same sex cannot sexually assault one another.
- 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, cis-gendered individuals.
- Being treated in a homophobic/biphobic/transphobic manner by police and service providers.
Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Survivors
- Listen. It is hard for many survivors to disclose an assault, especially if they are not out yet and by disclosing would have to come out at the same time. So drop what you are doing and be there for them.
- Use supportive phrases: "I believe you" and "it took a lot of courage to tell me about this." "It's not your fault" and "you didn't do anything to deserve this." "You are not alone" and "I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can." "This must be really tough for you" and "I'm glad you felt you could share this with me."
- Use inclusive language that affirms the survivor's gender identity and sexual orientation. Rather than assuming someone's gender identity and sexual orientation, use neutral language like "partner" or "date" instead of "boyfriend/girlfriend." Try not to assume what someone's gender identity or preferred pronouns are; it's a better idea to let them tell you, or you can ask what they prefer. You can always use "they" instead of "he/she" if you are unsure.
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 Clinic (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.
- EIU Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity- Local, State, and Federal Resourceshttps://www.eiu.edu/lgbtqa/state-local-resources.php: The EIU Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity aspires to create an inclusive community by instilling a culture of respect, advocacy, and empowerment towards an open, safe, and just campus. This link provides an extensive list of local, state, and federal resources.
- SACIS http://sacis.org: SACIS provides counseling, advocacy, and support for all victims of sexual assault and their significant others. They also provide referrals to appropriate services if a client requests other information.
- HOPE of East Central Illinois https://hope-eci.org: The mission of HOPE is to empower persons to live independent, non-violent lives through the provisions of Housing, Outreach, Prevention, and Education.
- Forge http://www.forge-forward.org/index.php: (For Ourselves: Reworking Gender Expression): Home to the Transgender Sexual Violence Project. Provides services and publishes research for transgender persons experiencing violence and their loved ones.
- The Network/La Red http://www.tnlr.org/en/: The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, their works aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. They strengthen their communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services.
- Anti-violence Project http://avp.org: AVP empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.