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 regardless of the gender identities of the people involved. Remember that while this document focuses on binary genders, many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who are experiencing gender violence are non-binary. While LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault experience the same concerns as any survivor, they also face unique challenges and need culturally-sensitive care.
Sexual Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) or Intersex Communities
Individuals who identify as Lesbian*, Gay*, Bisexual*, Transgender*, Queer* (LGBTQ+) or Intersex* often experience intense discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity. Institutions and establishments in our society categorize and label human experience in ways that fail to recognize those with sexualities and gender identities outside of the confines of heterosexuality and gender as based on biological sex. These current definitions of human sexuality and gender identity limit our understanding of the LGBTQ+ communities. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center gathered the Special Collection: Sexual Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, or Queer (LGBTIQ) Communities in an effort to create an environment of cultural competence when serving or working with LGBTQ+-identified individuals. * It is important to note, with any personal identity the language chosen by the individual to describe their identity is of the utmost importance. Language that one individual uses to describe their sexual identity can be considered offensive to the next. Definitions for these identities are not fixed and are always changing in meaning, both in society and by individuals.
Same-Sex Sexual Assault
- As with different-sex assaults, the assault may occur within the context of an otherwise consensual relationship.
- Same-sex assaults are less likely than different-sex assaults to be reported.
- LGBTQ+ individuals face ridicule and disbelief in different ways.
- There is often a tendency for society to attribute the assault to the victim’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex individuals who experience violence may not report the assault due to fears of being “outed,” perceptions of police and caregivers as homophobic/biphobic/transphobic, fear of being seen as betraying the LGBTQ+ community and lack of LGBTQ+ friendly services.
- LGBTQ+ survivors experience the same emotional reactions and are in need of the same support and intervention services as survivors of different-sex assault.
- Many victims often experience a sense of betrayal and disbelief that a woman could assault another woman, and 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 man-to-man sexual assault is of men who are perceived to be gay by a heterosexual man.
- A heterosexual man who is sexually assaulted may begin to question his sexual orientation.
- Man-to-man sexual assaults also occur between gay and/or bisexual men.
- Overt anger is a common reaction among men who experience violence.
- 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, sexually transmitted infections, and in some cases, pregnancy.
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 because some may want to maintain the myth that there are no problems of relationship violence within the LGBTQ+ community.
- Fear of the LGBTQ+ community and 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 Counseling Center. You may also choose to seek out the Campus Victim Advocate and/or the staff at the LGBTQ Resource Center. These resources have a tradition of providing informed, affirming and supportive services to the LGBTQ+ community.
- In an emergency, the following hotlines are available:
- Trevor Project: 866 4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
- Trans Lifeline 877-565-8860