Past and present policies, laws, and beliefs illustrate how the imbalances of power foster the prolonged oppression and marginalization of specific groups of people within our society. It is within this system that the root causes of sexual violence, power and control, are able to grow as well. Individuals in the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community are members of one of the groups who have been impacted by these dynamics. For example, for 17 years the United States Armed Forces utilized the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited gay and lesbian individuals from being open about their sexual orientation while serving in the military. In the mental health and medical community, homosexuality was viewed as a disorder that could be cured and was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from 1968 to 1973 (Drescher, 2015). Additionally, same-sex couples did not have the right to become legally married or adopt children in every state until a Supreme Court decision in 2015.
When people are viewed as inferior, abnormal, and less deserving of the rights and privileges that others have, the impacts are significant. In fact, LGBTQ individuals experience higher rates of sexual violence than individuals who identify as heterosexual. 1 in 2 transgender individuals, 40% of gay men, and 47% of bi-sexual men will experience some form of sexual violence within their lifetime. Further, 1 in 8 lesbian women and 46% of bi-sexual women have experienced rape (Center for Disease Control & The National Center for Transgender Equality).
While the impacts of sexual violence are different for many survivors, LGBTQ folks typically face additional, unique barriers when disclosing their experiences and throughout their healing process. These can include:
Further experiences of discrimination, harassment, or acts of homophobia or transphobia when reporting or disclosing their experience(s) of sexual violence.
Increased feelings of isolation, fear, and shame due to a lack of effective services or support systems.
Minimization or denial of the occurrence of sexual violence between same-sex couples from service providers, family members, or friends.
LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence deserve access to effective and appropriate services. A truly inclusive space is one where a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity are acknowledged and the common barriers that LGBTQ individuals are met with are recognized and addressed.