Special Population Victims
Men and members of the LGBTQ+ community are often victims of sexual assault but do not receive the support they need from society.
By Cecelia Heckman
People Who Identify as LGBTQ+ May Experience Sexual Violence at Higher Rates, Human Rights Campaign Says
“It’s so important to understand that people that are trans or don’t identify or identify in that [LGBTQ+] community often times are targeted because of their sex and sexuality,” Angela Rose, founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE), said. “One in two trans folks are victimized by sexually violence. That is a huge number.”
When discussing sexual violence, the most common scenario presented is a male assaulter and a female victim. But what about within the LGBTQ+ community? What about those who do not identify as male or female? They experience sexual assault as well.
In fact, the Human Rights Campaign reports that people who identify as LGBTQ+ may experience sexual violence at even higher rates than those who identify as heterosexual. This victimization is especially common for the LGBTQ+ community within intimate partner situations.
A report from The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that 35 percent of heterosexual women experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. However, these same experiences affected 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women.
“Isolation is a pretty common tactic in abusive relationships, and the isolation that can come sometimes from being in a queer/LGBTQ relationship, that can add vulnerability to abuse,” Anna Cibils, a medical advocate for the Lutheran Settlement House, said. “If they are people who are in relationship in an environment that is homophobic and they feel like not a lot of people support them and their identity from the start, that can add another layer of isolation.”
Cibils has seen the effects of this isolation personally through her own work.
“I’ve worked with a woman recently in Einstein emergency department who is a woman of transgender experience. Even though she came from a family that was pretty wealthy, she didn’t have the option of going back to them for support when she was in a domestic violence relationship because they kind of rejected her,” Cibils said. “So that’s maybe something a straight person or a cisgender person, someone who isn’t transgender, would not have to deal with.”
Some even reconsider reporting an abusive situation for fear of bringing more stigma against themselves or the whole LGBTQ+ community. Rose recalled a conversation with a member of the community she used to work with who spoke about this experience.
“She said, ‘What separates me from everybody else is my sex and sexuality.’ So number one, I am targeted because of that, and number two, if it’s someone within my community it’s going to be very difficult for me to go to the police because we’re already shamed, we’re already on the outside,’” Rose said. “So to bring anything more negative into our community is something that she felt was very difficult to do.”
Another issue that often impacts the LGBTQ+ community more once they are abused is a lack of resources that are readily available for them if they do choose to move forward.
“There are very little resources and research to support folks in the LGBT community,” Rose said.
“I think that within the community there’s always so much distrust in organizations and distrust of police or distrust of medical professionals or distrust of the people that you would normally, say in this situation, go to these people,” Jacob Glickman, a therapist at Child Guidance Resource Center, said.”
“So a lot of those resources are much more difficult for people in the community to have access too. Whether it be because they are afraid to utilize them or because they have been rejected before by these entities.
In order to get true reports from, and justice for, all of those who are sexually assaulted, it is important to create a more accepting climate of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and recognize that sexual violence is an issue that impacts all genders.
By Cecelia Heckman