Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Crisis Response: LGBTQ Victims Being Hit Twice…Emotionally, That Is

In Advocacy on June 30, 2012 at 5:00 am

We all know that a crime against any person will usually leave that individual feeling a vast array of emotions.  Sadness, anger, detachment, numbness, embarrassment, shame, and guilt are just a few amongst a long list of feelings that a victim will experience.  Crimes of a sexual nature can be especially tough emotionally on a victim.  Every other emotion can instantly be combined with the most intense cases of vulnerability and exposure that a person can imagine going through.  This is where a crisis response team that knows how to cater to the sensitivity of each victim proves to be invaluable.  They need to be able to assess the situation, and the right approach necessary, as to not add more distress to a victim who has already experienced a very traumatic event.

Now, imagine that this victim is also a member of the LGBTQ community.  Of course they would experience the same array of emotions and vulnerability as any other straight person who was sexually assaulted, but there is a second issue that they may find themselves dealing with.  In some cases, LGBTQ individuals are victimized in a sexual manner strictly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  As someone who has been in crisis response for many years, it is not a surprise when a LGBTQ sexual assault victim tells me that their assailant yelled offensive slurs or derogatory comments regarding their sexual orientation before or during the assault.  This can add to the feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, etc, that these victims feel, as some victims will start to blame themselves for being attacked.  They can feel that they are wrong for the life that they live, and once again someone is making it clear that they think something is wrong with them.  As a punishment for being who they are, they may start to believe they deserved what happened to them.  Instead of blaming the other person’s ignorance or hatred, many victims turn the blame inward.  In reality, not only have they been assaulted physically, but mentally as well.  They have been hit twice.  Through experience, most crisis responders become aware of this aspect of the sexual assault of an individual in the LGBTQ community.  This makes it all the more important for the crisis response team to be aware of all of the differing emotions that the victim will be going through and be able to provide them with the type of quality service they deserve.

RCASA Friday Facts: Sexual Assault in the Transgender Communities

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 29, 2012 at 5:00 am

Sexual Assault in the Transgender Communities

By Arlene IstarLev and S. Sundance Lev

Transgendered Victims of Sexual Assault

Transgendered people are the targets of the most vicious and blatant forms of violence. They are routinely abused by the police and medical professionals, in addition to being subjected to random street violence and domestic partner abuse. Intimate partners, often appalled to discover the gender transgression, can verbally, psychologically, physically and sexually abuse the person.

Statistical research for violence towards the transgendered population is still in its infancy. The preliminary data of transgendered and intersexed individuals gathered by the Gender, Violence and Resource Access Survey found that 50% of respondents had been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner (Courvant and Cook-Daniels, 1998). Eyler and Witten (1999) have began a longitudinal study of violence against the transgendered community, and the preliminary data clearly show physical and sexual violence perpetrated on those who express cross-gender behavior. Our trans-phobic bigotry, like racist violence, allows us to falsely identify the victims of violence as the provocateurs of violence. As Dallas Denny (1992) says, “Despite the fact that they are much more often victims of violence than they are perpetrators, transgendered persons are frequently portrayed in the media as psychotics and criminals.” Given the virulent violence against transgendered people by the police this is especially ironic.
Transgendered people are often sexually targeted specifically because of their transgendered status. The sexual perpetrator will stalk them, or attack them, infuriated by their cross-gender behavior. Wilchins (1998), in the video “Transgendered Revolution” says, “Trans people are never killed from 300 yards away with a high-powered rifle; they’re always killed up front and personal … People want to see us die … there is a level of almost unhinged deranged violence about gender hate crimes.”
Claudia is an African-American, male-to-female transsexual woman who was sexually molested before her transition by her then wife. When Maria returned home early one evening and discovered Claudia dressed in female clothes, she flew into a rage.  She began beating Claudia, cursing and calling her sexually abusive names.  Claudia was ashamed to have been caught, and passively accepted this behavior.  This infuriated Maria even more, who began sexually molesting Claudia, while degrading both her feminine appearance, and her masculine body. Maria raped Claudia and then left the marriage.

Terence is a female-to-male transgendered person of Korean descent. He has lived most of his life as a butch/tomboy identified lesbian, until he began to address his gender dysphoria. He began to transition, identifying as a “bi-gendered” person — neither male nor female, both male and female.  His lesbian partner was resistant to this transition initially, but became increasingly more supportive over time. Terence began taking testosterone injections and his body began to masculinize, however he was not interested in pursuing genital surgery. Terence was walking home from work late one evening, when he was accosted by a group of young hoodlums. Unsure at first “what” Terence was they began to tease him, first as a small guy, but then slowly they began to suspect he wasn’t really a “guy.” The taunts increased to a racist verbal assault, with increasing hostility at “the woman who was pretending to be a real guy.” Terence was beaten and repeatedly raped by these boys, both vaginally and anally. He refused to report the crime or to receive medical help, afraid that the police and medical system would just further abuse him.

It is clear from examining the above vignettes, that categorizing Claudia and Terence’s experiences as either opposite-sex, or same-sex abuse becomes confusing — and somewhat irrelevant — classifications. Both are being targeted because of their transgendered status, and defining the assaults as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” depends on

the perceptions of transgendered people within a bipolar gendered system. Terence was raped “like” a woman, precisely because he was not a woman. Claudia, also was raped as a woman, in this case because she was not a man. Witten and Eyler (1999) say, “Violence against members of the transgender community shares many similarities with violence stemming from anti-female hatred and anti-homosexual (and other hate crime) attacks. Furthermore, distinguishing the motivation behind a violent attack against a transgendered person is often impossible because of the intersection between misogyny and hatred of other person whose existence undermines perceived male sexual supremacy and the gender dichotomy which is its necessary underpinning… For example, a male-to-female transsexual may concurrently experience physical or sexual assault as a woman (targeted by her assailant because of anti-female hatred) and hate-crime victimization as a (perceived) effeminate, homosexual male, or as a “gender-deviant” person.  (p. 6)”

Our societal discomfort with transgenderism has rendered transgendered victims of sexual assault, gay-bashing, and domestic violence without necessary services. Rape Crisis Centers and domestic violence shelters are unprepared to address the issues of transgendered people. Medical personnel respond with judgment and have been known to withhold care to people they perceive to be cross-dressing. The criminal justice and the legal systems often re-traumatize victims. The complexity of issues facing the transgendered person who is sexual assaulted can only be addressed by broad changes in the delivery system and extensive education regarding the needs of this community.

This is an excerpt from an article Sexual Assault in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities that will be published in a forthcoming book McClennen, J. C., & Gunther, J.  (1999).  Same-sex partner abuse: A professional’s guide to practice intervention.  Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press  (In Press).


Courvant, D., & Cook-Daniels, L.,  (1998). Transgender and intersex survivors of domestic violence: Defining terms, barriers and responsibilities.  In National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Conference Manual, POB 18749 Denver, CO 80218, -0749; 303-839-1852.

Eyler, A.E., & Witten, T.M. (1999). Violence within and against the transgender community: Preliminary survey results. Technical Report: International Longitudinal Transsexual and Transgender Aging Research Project. 1-12. 12846 Maple Park Drive, San Antonio, TX, 78249, 1.210.691.3351. http://www.int-trans.org.

Denny, D. (1992, April). Violence against transgendered persons: An Unrecognized problem. The Advocate, 601.

Wilchin, R.A., (1999, January). A Hate crime by any other name. Girlfriends magazine, 6, (1), 10.

Witten, T.M. & Eyler, A.E. (1999). Anti-transgender violence: The “Invisible” Human Rights Violation. Peace Review: An International Quarterly. 1-10. (In Press).

[Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev is a family therapist who specializes in working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.  She is in Albany, NY.  AFM Spotlight – “Gay and Lesbian Parenting” (http://www.altfammag.com/ari-qlp.html) or on AOL: Parent Threads 4344:2138.onqparen.22621297.596940590]

What Do You Know About Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence?

In Sexual Assault Awareness, Therapy on June 28, 2012 at 5:00 am

Transgender indivdiuals are people whose gender identity may not match their sex assigned at birth. The transgender community includes anyone who might identify with this defintion. Someone who is transgender may not necessarily want or seek sexual reassignment surgery, which is important to keep in mind when working with trans* survivors. Members of the transgender community face many of the same barriers as the rest of the LGBT community, as well as their own set of issues related to transphobia lack of understanding about the transgender community.

Quick Facts About Transgender Survivors of Sexual Assault:

Approximately 1% of the U.S. population is transgender.
Approximately 30% of transgender individuals have been assaulted by an intimate partner.
Approximately 48% of transgender individuals are raped or assaulted more than once in their lifetime.
82% of transgender individuals that have been assaulted do not report their assault to authorities.
42% of transgender who have experienced sexual assault(s) say that gender was a contributing factor.

Tomorrow we will also be talking about the Transgender community, so make sure to check out that post as well!
Retrieved from:

Fact Sheet:  Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence

Outreach Wednesday – Bullying Smart Phone Apps Serve as a Resource for LGBTQ Youth

In Current Events, Outreach on June 27, 2012 at 5:00 am

The following article is taken from the Examiner and talks about a new app that allows students to anonymously report bullying behaviors from their SmartPhones, iPads or computers. While there is certainly the potential for abuse, this is an interesting concept. I particularly like author’s discussion of how this type of application could affect the number of LGBTQ youth who report victimization by their peers.

“Mobile apps are the name of the game and everybody is trying to cash in by creating the newest trend. All it takes is an idea who time has come and then someone becomes an instant millionaire. Necessity always breeds invention and Connecticut teens heard the cries of kids being bullied.

Bullying apps are the newest thing and with the rate of gay youth that commit suicide on the rise, this new wave of apps could be just what the doctor ordered. This particular app created in Connecticut is called B.O.B. which stands for ‘back off bully’. With a name like that there is no way you can have a misunderstanding about its intended purpose.

Yesterday in a WHDH Channel 7News local report one of the developers of B.O.B., Christina Puglisi is quoted as saying “students are bullied and they don’t know how or where to go to get help. Of course, that statement has documented proof of its validity every time a young gay person kills themselves because they can’t handle the torment of daily harassment.

The B.O.B. app’s major convenience and feature is the use of anonymity. You can either report bullying abuse that you see or personally experiencing without having to give your personal information. Once information is put into a database, administrators can study the data for patterns so that a remedy can be effectively implemented. With an application such as this any young person with a smart phone or computer can become a silent avenger to those who need their help.

Now what does this mean for the gay youth of this country? One of the reasons that gay youth don’t report bullying has to do with not wanting to admit they are gay. To report bullying of a gay nature to authorities mean exposing their sexuality which a lot of gay youth are not ready for. A mobile app of this caliber will certainly open up doors to stop gay harassment and protect the secret of the ones being bullied.

No doubt there will be opposition to the use of this app and someone will cry foul or find some way to justify why this app hurts more than it can help. If one gay youth or any youth for that matter, finds peace by reporting their bullying through this app, then the ends most certainly justify the means.”

It is extremely important that youth who identify as members of the LGBTQ community feel supported and safe enough to report peer to peer violence, whether it takes the form of verbal taunting, sexual harassment or physical violence. While bullying is a problem for a lot of young people, LGBTQ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied and are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. RCASA is dedicated to promoting and providing an accepting environment and support network for survivors of all sexual orientations and gender identities. However, if you are an LGBTQ youth or an ally who needs support, guidance or just someone to talk to you should call ROSMY’s 24/7 Youth Support Line at 1-888-644-4390. ROSMY also offers a variety of other support, education and advocacy services to youth in the Richmond area. You can find out more about them here.

Myths and Facts about the LGBTQ Community and Sexual Assault

In Education, Prevention on June 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

Part of the battle of preventing sexual assault in our community is making sure everyone understands the facts.  As we’ve already discussed in previous blogs, sexual abuse and assault happens just as frequently in the LGBTQ community as it does in the straight community.  However, there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there that may prevent friends, families, and service providers from fully understanding sexual assault in same-sex relationships.  So here are a few myths about sexual assault in the LGBTQ community that are adapted from the University of Michigan Student Affairs:

Myth:  A woman can’t rape another woman.

Reality:  While the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are male, the idea that woman-on-woman sexual assault does not occur is only a product of gender role stereotypes that encourage the idea that women are never violent. This stereotype can make it less likely that women who were sexually assaulted by another woman will be believed by those around her. It can also make a survivor who has believed that women are nonviolent feel disillusioned that she has  experienced violence from a woman.


Myth:  Gay men are sexually promiscuous and are always ready for sex.

Reality:  Men who identify as gay, like all people, have the right to say no to sex at any time and have that respected. Because of the stereotypes that many people have about gay men’s sexual availability, however, it may be more difficult for a gay man to convince others that he was  assaulted.


Myth:  Bisexuals are kinky anyway, and sexual assault for them is just rough sex that got out of hand.

Reality:  Bisexuality reflects a sexual orientation, not sexual practices. Bisexuals, like heterosexuals, practice a wide range of sexual behaviors, and, for bisexuals, like for heterosexuals, rough sex and a sexual assault are two very different things. Because of stereotypes about bisexuals, they, too, may have difficulty being believed about a sexual assault.


Myth:  When a woman claims domestic abuse by another women, it is just a catfight. Similarly, when a man claims domestic abuse by another man, it is just two men fighting.

Reality: The idea that women entice men to rape them or that they really want it is also not true. No person deserves to be raped, and no person asks to be raped or wants it. This myth again shows the extent to which sexual assault is sexualized in our society. Women may experience a sexual assault, no matter what they are wearing, and what the victim was wearing in no way makes her⁄him responsible for the assault.

As you can see, most of our misunderstandings about the LGBTQ community come from preconceived notions about gender roles, or, how we think women and men are supposed to act.  Misconceptions about people who do not fit neatly into gender roles arise when we try to apply preconceived notions to nonconformity.  You can read more about gender norms and sexual assault here.

Comunidad LGBTQ

In Hispanic/Latino, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 25, 2012 at 5:00 am

En este segundo y último artículo consideraremos a dos agencias:

  1. Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, RCASA o Concilio Rappahanock contra la agresión sexual, agencia sin fines de lucro, sirviendo a víctimas de violencia sexual del Distrito de Planificación No. 16 de Virginia.


Contamos con un equipo de navegadores de salud, prevención e intervención magnífico, con excelentes intercesoras muy capacitadas y dispuestas a ayudar a víctimas de violencia sexual respetando su dignidad y privacidad.

Nuestro personal esta capacitado a prestar apoyo a víctimas de violencia sin importar la edad, la raza, nacionalidad, género, u orientación sexual.  Respondiendo inmediatamente a las llamadas de los clientes cuando estan en crisis, acompañándolos al hospital, acompañamiento al Tribunal, prestando servicios de intercesoría legal.

Nuestro trabajo se enfoca en el Trastorno de Estrés Postraumático, las situaciones adversas vividas en la niñez, escoger el respeto por si mismo y por los demás y en las relaciones personales saludables.

Consejeras profesionales muy capacitadas que proveen terapia bajo la supervisión directa de nuestra Directora Ejecutiva, quien tiene dos Maestrías, una en Arte y otra en Terapia de Arte, Terapista Profesional Licenciada, Certificada por la Directiva en Terapia de Arte y  Certificada como terapista  de abuso de alcohol y drogas.

Unidad de servicios de apoyo a la comunidad Latina y a otra comunidades inmigrantes.

Los servicios de RCASA son bilingües: Inglés y Español.

  1. 2.     Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services, FAHASS.

415 Elm Street
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401
phone (540) 371-7532
toll-free (800) 215-8121
fax (540) 371-8446

Our Mission Serving the City of Fredericksburg and the Counties of Caroline, Culpeper, Fauquier, King George, Madison, Orange, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland. FAHASS is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to help empower persons infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, by acting as their advocate and providing emotional, educational and emergency financial assistance. It is through compassion and service that we educate and reach out to our communities.

Nuestra misión – Servir a la ciudad de Fredericksburg y los condados de Caroline, Culpeper, Fauquier, King George, Madison, Orange, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford y Westmoreland. FAHASS es una organización privada, no lucrativa cuya misión es ayudar y alentar a personas infectadas y afectadas por el VIH y el SIDA, actuando como su intercesor y proveyendo ayuda financiera, emocional, educativa y asistencia financiera en casos de emergencia. Es a través de compasión y servicio que educamos y concientizamos a nuestras comunidades.

FAHASS provides counseling services to HIV-positive clients. Specific counseling services that are offered are: individual, couples, and family counseling. The counselor at FAHASS specializes in HIV specific issues, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, grief and loss, relationship and family issues, as well as, LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/questioning) issues.

Counseling provides a safe, non-judgmental and confidential place to discuss your concerns with a skilled professional. 

FAHASS provee servicios de consejería a los clientes VIH-positivos. Los servicios específicos de consejería que se ofrecen son: individuales, parejas, y terapia de familia. El terapista de FAHASS se especializa en temas específicos del VIH, depresión, ansiedad, autoestima, pena y pérdida, relaciones familiares, así como de temas relacionados con la comunidad LGBTQ La terapia prove un lugar seguro, no critic y confidencial para discutir sus preocupaciones con un profesional experto.

Para más información sobre los servicios adicionales que ofrece FAHASS, vaya a:


RCASA Volunteer Corner

In Sexual Assault Awareness on June 24, 2012 at 5:02 am

My summer session is FINALLY over!

This means so many things: more relaxing, more beaching, more playing, more volunteering, more home projects, and one of my favorites, MORE READING.

I’m a read-a-holic.  I consume books, newspaper articles, magazines, blogs and online resourest during every spare minute I have.

I stumbled across a blog pot on The Huffington Post that I thought I would share here.  This is not only important for LGBTQ sexual assault survivors, but youth in general struggling to find their way.

Directly Quoted from the article.

“Dear friend,

Let me start by telling you that I love you. No, I don’t know you at all. I might have passed you at the mall or caught a glimpse of you driving down the road, but chances are you live far away from me, in another state or even in another country. I love you just the same. Even though we are distant, we are not so different, you and I. This is a picture of me when I was a teen. You can tell by looking at me that I felt different, unhappy. You see, like you, I have felt intense pain. I’ve even had fleeting moments when I wanted to commit suicide myself. I suspect that’s something that everyone thinks about at one time or another, if they’re honest with themselves. I know that sometimes, pain can become so heavy to carry around that you might just think killing yourself is the only respite from how bad you feel. But don’t do it. This is why.

I think what’s happening to you is this. You are changing, both in body and mind. You are much like all other living beings. The caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. A crab searches for a new shell when it outgrows the old one. The old you, the one you’re used to being, is dying. That’s the one your loved ones know, the little boy/girl who sat on their laps and listened to their stories, the one they tucked in at night and took care of when there was illness. They still see you as that person. Now, you’re changing, right in front of them. You don’t sound the same or act the same. Your likes and dislikes have changed. You used to give that maraschino cherry on top of your sundae to someone else. Now, you decide to eat that cherry yourself. Your family grieves for the person they once knew. All the stages of their grief — the anger, the denial, the guilt — are unfolding right before your eyes.

You are changing. Perhaps there is something about yourself that you are ashamed of in some way. Maybe you’re gay, lesbian, or feel like you’ve been born in the wrong body. Or you might just feel like you are weird. Sometimes, especially in our teens, we feel disconnected, like we’re watching things go on around us but we’re not really a part of anything. I know because I’ve been lost before, many times. All those feelings, in part, come from shame. You were not born with shame, though, so you don’t have to own it. It took years for you to learn that shame is a part of you, but it takes only a declaration from you to release it. You are what you are. Don’t make excuses for yourself. Doing so only minimizes who you are now and who you will become someday.

If all this isn’t enough, you also have to deal with bullies at school and a bunch of haters who come in all ages, races, occupations, and religions. Maybe you even find them in your house of worship. Some of these people think they have God on their side, as if He chooses one of His children over another. Yeah, it’s crazy. If you think about it long enough, though, you can see how people come to believe what they believe, but it doesn’t make them right any more than it makes you wrong. Don’t take these people seriously. It will only bring you down.

Get used to the new person who is growing inside you. Look for support near and far. The Internet is full of people telling their stories on blogs and discussion threads. You are not alone. You will be amazed by how many people are like you. It’s a great feeling when you make a connection to a total stranger. It’s even greater when you realize what a help you have been to a stranger. Maybe together you can navigate this crazy world.

Yes, I love you. I want to give you a big hug and tell you that it gets better, because it actually does. Once you accept the person you are and forgive the ones who have wronged you, you will start to grow. Hang on. There are people you may not even know yet who are waiting for you with open arms, and they will love you unconditionally. Trust me. Your life will get better, and you will learn how to love again. Promise.”

This was written by Gary Nelson, you can find him, here and here

Crisis Response: RCASA as a Safe Place for the LGBTQ Community

In Advocacy on June 23, 2012 at 5:00 am

On average 11-17% of all women report being sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, while 2-3% of men will report a sexual assault in their lifetime.  These numbers are significantly lower for individuals in the LGBTQ community.  When they are assaulted they have many issues to consider that straight men and women do not have to worry about.  Will they receive the same level of medical service that a straight person would receive?  Will they receive the same level of sensitivity and caring that a straight person would receive?  Will the police put forth the same efforts to seek justice for a crime that happened to them?  As a group that has been highly discriminated against in the United States, including having less rights, they legitimately worry about seeking immediate help during this time of crisis (Chedekel, 2011).

This is why it is so important for RCASA to continue to make ourselves known to the LGBTQ community.  All of our crisis responders and volunteers are trained to be sensitive to and respectful to people in all walks of life.  Our organization is the safe haven for people who have been sexually assaulted no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity may be.  This is also especially important because there is a growing need for crisis responders who are sensitive to the issues that the LGBTQ community faces.  According to this article, http://www.bu.edu/today/2011/lesbians-gays-bisexuals-at-increased-risk-for-sexual-assault/ , by Lisa Chedekel, women in the LGBTQ community are up to 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in some way in their lifetime, whereas LGBTQ men are up to 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.  This happens for a variety of reasons, but hate crimes are the main reason I have observed over the course of several years.  Sexual assault is a crime against another human being and it should not be tolerated, period.  This is no less true for individuals who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ community.  RCASA takes the stance that sex crimes against the LGBTQ community are never okay and we are immediately available when needed during a crisis.


Chedekel, Lisa.  “Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals at Increased Risk for Sexual Assault.”  BU Today.  Boston University, 13 Apr. 2011.  Web.  22 Jun. 2012.

RCASA Friday Facts: The Importance Of Including LGBTQ Survivors In Our Anti-Violence Work

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 22, 2012 at 5:00 am

Importance of Including LGBT Survivors in our Anti-violence Work

J. Herman (1997) has written eloquently regarding the stigma that trauma workers can experience due to society’s discomfort with facing the issue of trauma and victimization. This may be even more true for those organizations and individuals that develop outreach, intervention and prevention programs aimed at meeting the needs of LGBT survivors (Girshick, 2002). This then begs the question why we, as clinicians, activists, educators, and researchers, should focus our efforts on serving LGBT survivors of sexual violence. First, we have an ethical mandate to serve all survivors and end all oppressions ( NASW 2001). The National Sexual Violence Resource Center as well as the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence – two premiere organizations leading the violence intervention and prevention efforts nationally – have also both committed themselves to addressing all forms of domestic and sexual violence.

The rape and domestic violence intervention movements began with the understanding that the cultural underpinnings of and reliance on power and control lead to sexual and domestic violence. Sexual violence has been conceptualized as one mechanism used to maintain unequal and discriminatory sex role rights and expectations and support a status quo that empowers males and disempowers females (Robinson, 2003; Women’s International Network News, 2002). Similarly, sexual violence aimed at lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender individuals has been perceived as a violent attempt to keep those who are deemed socially inferior in terms of sexual and gender expression “in line” (Gentlewarrior, Martin-Jearld, Sweetser, Skok & Langevin, 2007/2008; HaleyNelson, 2005; Kidd & Witten, 2007/2008).

People perceived to be deviating from sexual and gender norms are often sexually targeted. Willis (2004) summarizes this point: “society’s constructions of sexuality, socioerotic identity, and gender identity have consequences” (p. 125). For example, boys who display behaviors typically viewed as feminine in nature are at an increased risk for all kinds of victimization – including sexual trauma (Brady, 2008); this can place gay and bisexual boys at greater risk for child sexual abuse. Lesbians and bisexual females experience sexual abuse based in both gender bias and homophobia/biphobia. When speaking about sexual violence across the lifespan, HaleyNelson (2005) states:

the penalty for women who do not conform to gender and sexuality standards is sexual violence such as rape, forced sodomy, and sexual slavery. Lesbians [and bisexual women], as more obvious gender and sexuality nonconformers, are targeted more frequently and severely for sexualized, physical violations” (167).

Transgender individuals are often targeted by sexual perpetrators because of their gender non-conformity (Kidd & Witten, 2007; Mizock & Lewis, 2008). This point was illustrated by a transgender female respondent in a qualitative research study when she discussed her “‘punishment for deviating from gender norms. She shared how prior to her gender transition she was raped as an 11-year-old boy by two older boys who said, ‘You wanna be a girl? Well this is how girls get treated'” (Gentlewarrior, et al., 2007/2008, p. 15).

In addition, when gay men are raped by strangers they – like heterosexual women – are likely to be blamed for their trauma experience and perceived as unconsciously desiring victimization (Wakelin & Long, 2003). Finally, Aoesved & Long (2006) suggest “that there are interrelationships between sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance and rape myth acceptance at both the individual level and across individuals at the cultural level” (p. 489). Our work must include LGBT survivors not only because it is right, but as suggested by this information, because it is necessary in order to create a comprehensive response to sexual violence.

The special needs of transgender individuals during medical rape exams is a vitally important topic that needs attention by our field. The impact of sexual violence on LGBT families is also an area that deserves study. These are but a few of the substantively important issues that sexual violence workers must be versed in to provide effective and culturally competent services to LGBT survivors of sexual violence. In order to effectively serve LGBT survivors of sexual trauma, recommendations to those in the sexual violence field  include:

1) Engage in ongoing identification and rectification of any attitudes or behaviors predicated in homophobia, biphobia, and/or transphobia.

2) Prioritize the production and dissemination of information focused on LGBT survivors of sexual violence in community-based and peer-reviewed venues.

3) Ensure that our agencies have workers and administrators that reflect the social identities of all of those we serve.

4) Commit to developing a knowledge base about LGBT individuals that includes: a) Information about their historical and current experiences of oppression and b) Knowledge regarding the coming out and identity development processes.

5) Develop and utilize LGBT-affirmative practice models. Initial steps toward this goal include: a) Use of inclusive language verbally and in all written forms and literature; b) Assessment of all survivors for bias as well as non-bias oriented victimizations; and c) Ability to honor clients’ multiple and interconnected social identities and effectively serve clients’ in view of these identities.

6) Identify – or if needed – create LGBT community resources dedicated to offering safe, affirming support on a range of issues relevant to members of these communities.

7) Provide professional development opportunities for area agencies focused on the self awareness, knowledge and skills needed to offer culturally competent services to LGBT survivors of sexual violence.

Participate in policy and social change work dedicated to providing equity of treatment and acceptance to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Sexual violence clinicians, educators, activists and researchers have a proud history of joining survivors in naming and addressing the causes and impacts of trauma. Working to ensure equal attention and efficacy in serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors of sexual violence in our clinical, research, education, prevention,   advocacy, legislative and policy efforts is an appropriate next step in our work (Bauer & Wayne, 2005; Carroll, Gilroy & Ryan, 2002; Gentlewarrior, et al., 2007/2008; NASW, 2001; Van Den Bergh & Crisp, 2004; Walder-Haugrud, 1999).

The previous article was adapted from Culturally Competent Service Provision to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence written by

Sabrina Gentlewarrior, Ph.D., LICSW, ACSW

LGBTQ – A Little History

In Therapy on June 21, 2012 at 5:00 am

Homosexuality used to be a diagnosable mental health disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The diagnosis was removed in 1973 after the movements that occurred in the 60s and 70s as well as after research on sexuality was completed by Alfred Kinsey. His research demonstrated that not only does sexuality fall on a continuum, but that homosexuality can be found across cultures.


Some Native Americans, to include the Navajo, honored those who did not conform to traditional gender roles. The Navajo believed that these individuals had two spirits dwelling in one body. When settlers came to America, the Navajo were often forced to accept the traditions of the settlers causing the concept of two spirited individuals to be ignored. Today the Native American population is working towards reviving the concept of two spirited individuals and educating the public through writing and documentaries.


Despite societal changes and the removal of the diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM, the LGBTQ community continues to face many barriers to treatment. Many in the LGBTQ have experienced rejection or feelings of isolation when others have responded to them negatively due to myths and stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Individuals may have also experienced hate crimes or have had difficulty reporting sexual assault or domestic violence for fear that the responder may not be supportive or educated on how to provide for his or her needs. These are just some of the many barriers to treatment that the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis.


An individual should never be prevented from receiving needed services due to discrimination. Here at RCASA, we work to create a safe space by breaking down the barriers that minorities may feel when in need of services. Everyone deserves respect and we encourage you to help those who may need services break down those barriers as well. You can help break down barriers by becoming educated, by just listening without judgment or advice, by respecting confidentiality but not shaming the person by making the person feel as though they should be secretive and cannot talk to you, and by inquiring how you can be supportive to the individual and offering that support.


Information in this blog was taken from:

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