Everyone knows that abuse happens in heterosexual relationships. Teen violence in dating relationships has been a focus of many groups like RCASA in recent years. However, few people are aware that LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) people in relationships experience sexual and physical abuse at high rates as well. According to the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultant Team, 52% of people same-sex couples experienced at least one incident of sexual coercion by their partners. In addition, about 30% of self-identified lesbians reported being sexually assaulted or raped by a female, while 15% of men in same-sex relationships reported experiencing sexual assault or rape by a male. Clearly, sexual assault is not a heterosexual phenomenon.
So why aren’t we doing more to tackle this issue? One of the biggest obstacles is the fact that LGBTQ people who have been sexually assaulted simply don’t feel safe reporting the abuse. Many members of the LGBTQ community fear that police or service providers may display prejudice against them. Others may fear being outted and possibly abandoned by friends and family. Still others may not report abuse because they are afraid of betraying the LGBTQ community. There is already such a negative stigma attached to the LGBTQ community that many members of the community are reluctant to do anything that might further damage the image of the group as a whole.
So what can we do to prevent sexual abuse of LGBTQ people in our community? First of all, we can acknowledge that they exist. Most resources and programs assume that all victims of sexual assault are heterosexual. Our language as service providers and friends/family should be more inclusive. Don’t simply assume that a young girl has a boyfriend or that a young boy has a girlfriend. Inclusive language like “significant other” or “partner” can go a long way in making a member of the LGBTQ community feel safe. Second, we need to acknowledge that sexual assault happens in the LGBTQ community. Ignoring the problem only perpetuates it. By acknowledging that sexual assault happens in the LGBTQ community, we take the power out of the silence forced upon that community.
These may only seem like small steps, but small steps are necessary for any sort of change to happen. No matter what your religious or personal beliefs are on the issue, I think we can all agree that no one should have to endure sexual assault.