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Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ Community

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Although seldom addressed, sexual assault is an issue in the LGBTQ community. It is a misconception that rape and sexual assault only occur in heterosexual communities. As in heterosexual relationships, sexual assaults are usually committed by someone that the survivor knows.  Members of the LGBTQ community, however, are less likely to report sexual assault than heterosexual survivors. LGBTQ survivors who decide to come forward and report their assault or seek support may face the additional challenges of homophobic, prejudicial or intolerant attitudes from people who are supposed to assist them.

How prevalent is sexual assault/rape in the LGBTQ community?

Studies vary and insufficient research has been done. A 1990 study in Psychological Reports found 31% of lesbians and 12% of gay men had been raped. However, the study did not discern the type of relationship in which the assault took place. Although most men are raped by homophobic straight men and most women are raped by men, rapists can also be the same sex as the survivor.

What issues around sexual assault/rape are unique to the LGBTQ community?

While it is important to acknowledge the diversity within the LGBTQ community, there are issues of common concern for LGBTQ rape survivors, arising largely from homophobia and heterosexism. Specifically,

  • Survivors who are not "out" may find sharing and/or reporting the rape especially difficult or even impossible.

  • The uncertainty of knowing the sensitivity level of resources may make reaching out for support very difficult.

  • Lack of awareness of same-sex rape both within and outside the LGBTQ community may make silence seem like the only option.

  • If the LGBTQ community is small, the fear of other's disbelief and/or other people "taking sides" may cause the survivor to keep quiet.

  • Guilt and self-blame may take the form of questioning one's sexual identity and sexuality. These issues rather than the rape may become the central issues of concern to the survivor.

  • Internalized homophobia may compound the complexities of strong emotions after rape.

  • Gay/bi male survivors may face the fear of not being believed and/or ridiculed because of the stereotype that men never reject a sexual opportunity.

  • Lesbian/bi survivors may face the fear of not being believed if they are raped by a female because of the myth that "women don't do that sort of thing."

What issues are common to all survivors?

  • Fear, humiliation, self-blame, depression, denial, powerlessness, anger and suicidal feelings are common after rape.

  • The need to be believed and reassured that what happened was in no way their fault.

  • The need to be given the dignity of making their own decisions about any course of action the survivor chooses to take.

  • Other common responses to sexual assault.

My friend or partner was sexually assaulted. How can I support him/her?

  • By believing your friend or partner.

  • By respecting their need for confidentiality.

  • By avoiding judgmental comments.

  • By seeking support through friends and the Counseling Center to deal with any feelings of frustration or anger that you may have.

  • By asking how you can be helpful rather than giving unsolicited advice.

  • By respecting his or her decisions even when yours may be different.

  • By being a good listener.

  • By being honest with yourself if you have trouble handling the aftermath of the rape. Support is available for you at the Counseling Center.

  • By offering unconditional love and support.

  • By not pressuring your partner to resume any form of sexual activity until they are ready.

If you have been sexually assaulted, know that you do not have to face this alone. Contact the Counseling Center (410.543.6070) to schedule an appointment. If you are supporting a friend or a partner who has experienced a sexual assault, support is available for you too!

Source: USCS Rape Prevention Education and members of the LGBTI community.

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