Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape and murder. Sexual violence can include words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will.
A person may use
- manipulation, or
- coercion to commit sexual violence.
There is a social context that surrounds sexual violence. Social norms that
- condone violence,
- using power over others,
- traditional constructs of masculinity,
- the subjugation of women, and
- silence about violence and abuse contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence.
Oppression in all of its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence. Sexual violence is preventable through collaborations of community members at multiple levels of society—in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, faith settings, workplaces, and other settings. We all play a role in preventing sexual violence and establishing norms of respect, safety, equality and helping others.
People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) experience sexual violence at higher rates than people who identify as heterosexual. A 2011 study analyzed data from more than 75 research reports and found that lesbian and bisexual women may be up to 3 times as likely as heterosexual women to report having been sexually assaulted during their lifetime; gay men may be up to 15 times as likely as heterosexual men to report having been sexually assaulted during their lifetime (Rothman, Exner and Baughman, 2011).
Sexual violence against the LGBTQ community occurs in a variety of ways including gender bullying in schools and the workplace, street harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault. LGBTQ people also experience hate crimes due to their gender and sexual identity. Because LGBTQ people do not have the same rights as heterosexual people, LGBTQ victim/survivors of sexual assault have less access to laws that protect them when they choose to report their experiences. Reporting their sexual assault may mean they have to come out as LGBTQ which is not always possible or safe. Coming out can lead to more harassment from people who are in helping professions such as law enforcement and medical professionals. Because of the fears of judgment and violence from others, people who identify as LGBTQ often do not report their experiences of sexual violence.
In order to prevent sexual violence in the LGBTQ community, we must work to end inequality and homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, etc. By ending inequality, we create spaces where LGBTQ people are seen as equal and reduce the amount of violence they experience, including sexual violence.
In a study of 268 LGBT respondents, 6% had been sexually assaulted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation (Green, 2012).
Respondents who expressed a transgender or gender non-conforming identity during grades K-12 reported significant rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%). American Indian, Asian, African-American, and multiracial respondents experienced higher rates of K-12 sexual violence than students of other races. More than half (51%) of respondents who were harassed, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted due to the gender expression in K-12 reported having attempted suicide (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, et al., 2011).
Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Gender Discrimination Survey. Washington, D.C.: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved from http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf
Green, M. S. (2012). Anchorage LGBT discrimination survey: Final report. Anchorage, AK: Indentity, Inc. Retrieved from http://alaskacommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/akq_final_report.pdf
Rothman, E. F., Exner, D., & Baughman A. L. (2011). The prevalence of sexual assault against people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in the United States: A systematic review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 12, 55-66. doi: 10.1177/1524838010390707