Archive for the ‘Friday Facts’ Category

RCASA Friday Facts: College Students and Sexual Violence

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 17, 2012 at 5:06 am
Rape on college campuses is a much more serious problem than many people realize. Here’s what you should know about sexual assault and college campuses.

Sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic. Sexual violence is a painful and psychologically devastating experience for victims, and many victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, up to 40% of rape victims develop sexually transmitted diseases. If you’re a student on a college campus, you need to know the facts about sexual violence on campus.

Statistics. According to the American Association of University Women:

  • 20 to 25 percent of college women are raped during their college career.
  • 65 percent of these attacks go unreported
  • Alcohol is involved in 75 percent of attacks.

{Source: The American Association of University Women, 2004)

Facts. Here are some things you need to know about rape:

  1. No one deserves to be raped, ever. Many women blame themselves because they were drinking, wearing revealing clothes, or some other reason. While rape victims sometimes make lapses in judgment–as does everybody– no lapse in judgement is ever deserving of rape. No rape victim is ever “asking for it.” If you are the victim of sexual violence, please understand that what happened was wrong and that it was not your fault.
  2. Most rapists are not strangers. Yes, you should be careful when you’re walking alone at night. However, stranger rape is much less common than rape at the hands of someone the victim knows. This type of rape is known as date rape or acquaintance rape. What’s more, the majority of rapes are planned.
  3. Forced intercourse is not the only kind of rape. While the definition of what constitute rape varies, you should know that all unwanted sexual contact is sexual violence, and it’s wrong.
  4. Men are raped too. By far, most victims of sexual assault are women, but this isn’t always the case.

What should you do if you get raped?

  1. Get yourself to a safe place. Don’t be shy about calling 911, especially if you are injured or if you fear another attack. If at all possible, find a supportive person who can help you, like a close friend or a residence assistant.
  2. Resist the urge to take a bath or a shower. Cleaning yourself is a natural impulse, but don’t. Your body is covered with physical evidence that can help catch the rapist. Preserve all evidence, such as your clothing.
  3. Get medical attention immediately! Even if you do not plan to report the rape, it is crucial that you seek help at the campus health center or elsewhere. Prompt medical assistance reduces you chance of developing some STDs, and many women choose to take the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy. Rape victims also sustain other physical injuries, and you may be more hurt than you realize. Yes, an intimate medical exam is the last thing you want after such a horrible experience, but it’s something you need to do for the sake of your health.
  4. Get psychological counseling as soon as possible. Rape is a traumatic experience, and most women need help coping. Be kind to yourself and get the help you need! Most campus counselors are well trained to help rape victims. A great resource is the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
  5. Report the assault to the campus and/or city police. Many women choose not to do this, and their decisions should be respected. But if you are raped, please consider reporting it. Doing so may prevent the rapist from hurting someone else, and if enough women report rapes, rape statistics may go down because the consequences will go up. And even if the rapist never strikes again, that bastard deserves to be punished. If there’s a chance the rapist could attack you again, definitely report him.

Reducing the risk of rape. Rape is never the victim’s fault. However, there are some important safety precautions you can take to reduce the risk.

Read more at Suite101: College Students & Sexual Violence: What You Should Know about Date Rape and Safety on College Campuses | Suite101.com http://suite101.com/article/college-students-sexual-violence-a26356#ixzz215aRAviK

RCASA Friday Facts: Campus Sexual Assault Facts and Figures

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 10, 2012 at 5:00 am

Facts and Figures

  • 95% of attacks are unreported, making sexual assault the “silent epidemic.” Sexual assault remains the most drastically underreported crime (*see the paragraph below the statistics for more on why). (1)
  • 3% of college women nationally have experienced rape or attempted rape during the academic year. This means, for example, that a campus with 6,000 coeds will have an average of one rape per day during the school year. (2)
  • 13% of women are stalked during the academic year, and each stalking episode lasts an average of 60 days. (2)
  • 90% of women know the person who sexually assaulted or raped them. (2)
  • 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both have been drinking. (3)
  • 42% of college women who are raped tell no one about the assault. (4)
  • 5% of rape incidents are reported to the police. (2) 10 times more rapes are reported to crisis lines than are reported to the police. (5)
  • 42% of raped women expect to be raped again. (4)

* While there are many reasons why people do not report, the most often cited reason in a 2009 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity was institutional barriers on campus. Two examples of these institutional barriers are administrators who respond to students with disbelief or other inappropriate behavior and campus judiciary processes that are difficult to understand and follow. Many students who were discouraged because of these barriers transferred or withdrew from their schools, while their alleged attackers were almost uniformly unpunished.(XX)

Debunking Myths
Both college women and men harbor misconceptions about sexual assault. Getting the facts is essential to combating sexual assault on campus.

  • 71% of rapes are planned in advance. (6)
  • 80% of women who are raped try to physically resist. (6)
  • 48.8% of the women did not consider what happened to them to be rape even though researchers considered the incidents to be rape. (2)
  • 43% of college-aged men conceded to using coercive behavior to have sex (including ignoring a woman’s protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse) but did not admit that it was rape. (7)

The Impact on Victims
Physical and emotional

  • 40% of rape survivors develop sexually transmitted diseases as a result of sexual assault. (8)
  • 80% of rape victims suffer chronic physical or psychological problems over time. (9)
  • 13 times as many rape survivors are more likely to attempt suicide than are people who are not victims of crime. Rape survivors are six times more likely to attempt suicide than are victims of other crimes. (10)
  • 25–50% of sexual assault victims seek mental health treatment as a result of the assault. (11)

Academics and achievement
In addition to physical and emotional damage, college students who have been victims of sexual assault suffer from a host of problems that impede their academic achievement.

  • In nearly every case, victims cannot perform at the same academic levels that they did prior to the attack.
  • Sexual assault sometimes causes students to be unable to carry a normal class load, and they miss classes more frequently. (This is often a result of social withdrawal or a way to avoid seeing the perpetrator.)
  • Student victims regularly withdraw from courses altogether.
  • In more traumatic incidents, victims leave the school until they recover, sometimes transferring to another college.

(12) – four bullets above

(1) Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available at www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.

(2) Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available at www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.

(3) Abbey, A., L. Thomson Ross, D. McDuggie, & P. McAuslan. (1996). Alcohol and dating risk factors for sexual assault among college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 147-169.

(4) Warshaw, Robin. (1994). I never called it rape. New York: Harper Perennial.

(5) U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. National crime victimization survey.
Available at http://www.fact-index.com/n/na/national_crime_victimization_survey.html.

(6) DC Rape Crisis Center. Turning anger into change. Available at www.dcrcc.org.

(7) American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescence. (1994). Sexual assault and the adolescent. Pediatrics, 94(5), 761-765.

(8) Holmes, Melissa, Heidi A. Resnick, Dean G. Kirkpatrick, & Connie L. Best. (1996). Rape-related pregnancy: Estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 175(2), 320-325.

(9) American Medical Association. (1995). Strategies for the treatment and prevention of sexual assault.
Available at www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/386/sexualassault.pdf.

(10) National Victim Center and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation. Charleston, SC: University of South Carolina.

(11) Miller, Ted, Mark A. Cohen, & Brian Wierama. Victim costs and consequences: A new look. 1996. Washington, DC: U.S. Department. of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/155282.htm.

(12) Kirkland, Connie J. (1994). Academic impact of sexual assault. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University. Available at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/sexual/.

(XX) Center for Public Integrity, “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice,” (2009). Available at http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/campus_assault/

RCASA’s Friday Facts: College Campus Sexual Assault

In Education, Friday Facts, Outreach, Prevention, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 3, 2012 at 5:00 am

It is estimated that 20-25% of college women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape during their college careers. In 90% of college cases, the offender is known to the victim, usually a classmate, friend, or acquaintance. According to a report funded by the Department of Justice, roughly one in five women who attend college will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates.

Type of Victimization Percentage of Sample Rate per 1,000 students
Completed Rape 1.7% 16.6
Attempted Rape 1.1% 11.0
Threat of Rape 0.3% 3.0
Completed Sexual Coercion 1.7% 16.6
Attempted Sexual Coercion 1.3% 13.5
Completed Sexual Contact 3.7% 31
Attempted Sexual Contact 5.0% 49.9


  • Of the women who had experienced events that fit the legal definition of rape, 46.5% described their victimization as rape.
  • For both completed and attempted rapes, about 9 in 10 offenders were known to the victim, usually a classmate, friend or acquaintance.
  • Fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes were reported to law enforcement officials, though the victim did tell another person about the incident in about two-thirds of cases.

As the data suggest, sexual assault and other forms of coercive sexual behavior are part of college life for a substantial number of young women.  The presence of sexual violence is a source of concern for the entire community, and has a grave impact on the affected person’s psychosocial development, intellectual maturation, and identity formation.

RCASA Friday Facts: Sexual Assault and Men, Myth vs. Reality

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on July 6, 2012 at 5:00 am

What Is “Sexual Assault?”

In legal terms, sexual assault is any sexual contact that is against a person’s will or without consent. This includes situations where force, violence, or weapons are used as well as situations where the victim is too intoxicated or scared to give consent. Sexual assault happens to men as well as women. In fact, by most estimations, 5% to 10% of sexual assaults committed in the United States involve male victims. Some experts say that as many as 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against men isn’t talked about very much.

Sexual assault against men happens in lots of different ways. Some men are assaulted by a stranger, or a group of strangers, while others may be assaulted by someone they know. Men are sometimes sexually assaulted by women but most often they are sexually assaulted by other men. Some attackers use weapons, physical force, or the threat of force to gain the upper hand. Others may use blackmail or a position of authority to threaten someone into submission. Still others use alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to prevent victims from fighting back. No matter how it occurs, it is a violation of a man’s body and his free will and it can have lasting emotional consequences.

Myth Vs. Reality

Let’s take a look at some mistaken beliefs about male sexual assault and uncover the realities behind the myths…

Myth: Men can’t be sexually assaulted. Reality: Men are sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance or sexual orientation.

Myth: Only gay men are sexually assaulted. Reality: Heterosexual, gay and bisexual men are equally likely to be sexually assaulted. Being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation. Your sexuality has no more to do with being raped than being robbed.

Myth: Only gay men sexually assault other men. Reality: Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight another reality — that sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not lust or sexual attraction.

Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women. Reality: Although the majority of perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually assaulted by women.

Myth: Erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault means you “really wanted it” or consented to it. Reality: Erection and ejaculation are physiological responses that may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. These responses do not imply that you wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about your sexual orientation. Some rapists are aware how erection and ejaculation can confuse a victim of sexual assault — this motivates them to manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the crime.

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]

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

RCASA Friday Facts: LGBTQ Glossary

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 15, 2012 at 5:00 am
Please keep in mind that this list is rudimentary, and that what comes with language is its ability to adapt, mutate and change.  Terms are presented to you for the purpose of communication, and this list should hardly be considered an authoritative source. ALLY: A person who confronts heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexual privilege, and so on, in themselves and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer-related people, and who believes that heterosexism is a social injustice.ANDROGYNE: A person with traits ascribed to males and females. Androgyny may be physical, presentational, or some combination.ASEXUALITY: A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexuals do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.BIGENDERED: Having two genders; exhibiting cultural characteristics of male and female roles.

BIPHOBIA: Fear or hatred of people who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, or nonmonosexual. Biphobia is closely linked with transphobia and homophobia.

BISEXUAL: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender.

CISGENDER: A gender identity that society considers to “match” the biological sex assigned at birth. The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across from.” A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgendered.

COMING OUT: Describes voluntarily making public one’s sexual behaviors, or sexual or gender identity. Related terms include: “being out,” which means not concealing one’s sexual behaviors or preference or gender identity, and “outing,” a term used for making public the sexual behaviors or preference or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret.

CROSSDRESSER (CD): The most neutral word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially or part of the time, and for any number of reasons, in clothing associated with another gender within a particular society. Carries no implications of “usual” gender appearance, or sexual orientation. Has replaced “transvestite,” which is outdated, problematic, and generally offensive, since it was historically used to diagnose medical/mental health disorders.

DRAG KING: A woman who appears as a man on a temporary basis; she may or may not have any masculine expression in her usual life. Generally in reference to an act or performance.

DRAG QUEEN: A man who appears as a woman on a temporary basis; he may or may not have any feminine expression in his usual life. Generally in reference to an act or performance.

FTM (F2M): Female-to-male transsexual or transgender person. Someone assigned female at birth who identifies on the male spectrum.

GAY: A person (or adjective to describe a person) whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender; a commonly-used word for male homosexuals.

GENDER: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

GENDER EXPRESSION/PRESENTATION: How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors that society characterizes as “masculine” or “feminine.” May also be androgynous or something else altogether.  Some people differentiate between the two terms.

GENDERFLUID: Being fluid in motion between two or more genders; shifting naturally in gender identity and/or gender expression/presentation. May be a gender identity itself. Refers to the fluidity of identity.

GENDERFUCK: A form of gender identity or expression, genderfuck is an intentional attempt to present a confusing gender identity that contributes to dismantling the perception of a gender binary.

GENDER IDENTITY: A person’s internal sense or self-conceptualization of their own gender. Used to call attention to the self-identification inherent in gender. Cisgender, transgender, man, woman, genderqueer, etc. are all gender identities.

GENDERISM: The belief that there are, and should be, only two genders and that one’s gender or most aspects of it are inevitably tied to the assigned sex.

GENDER NON-CONFORMING (GNC): A person who does not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.

GENDER OUTLAW: A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of men and women. A term popularized by Kate Bornstein in her book of the same name.

GENDERQUEER: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination thereof.

GENDER VARIANT: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression varies from the culturally-expected characteristics of their assigned sex.

HETEROSEXISM: The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other non-monosexual people as well as asexual, transgender, and intersex people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people.  It is often a subtle form of oppression which reinforces realities of silence and invisibility.

HETEROSEXUALITY: A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the “opposite” gender.

HOMOPHOBIA:  The irrational hatred and fear of homosexuals or homosexuality.  In a broader sense, any disapproval of homosexuality at all, regardless of motive.  Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred.  It occurs on personal, institutional, and societal levels, and is closely linked with transphobia, biphobia, and others.

HOMOSEXUALITY: A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. This term originated within the psychiatric community to label people with a mental illness, and still appears within the current discourse, but is generally thought to be outdated.

INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA: The fear and self-hate of one’s own homosexuality or non-monosexuality that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood.  One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.

INTERSEX: People who naturally (that is, without any medical interventions) develop primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Many visibly intersex babis/children are surgically altered by doctors to make their sex characteristics conform to societal binary norm expectations. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Has replaced “hermaphrodite,” which is inaccurate, outdated, problematic, and generally offensive, since it means “having both sexes” and this is not necessarily true, as there are at least 16 different ways to be intersex.

LESBIAN: A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.

LGBT:  Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.  An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole.

MTF (M2F): Male-to-female transsexual or transgender person. Someone assigned male at birth who identifies on the female spectrum.

NON-MONOSEXUAL: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for more than one gender. Bisexuality is the most well-known form of non-monosexuality.

OMNIGENDERED: Possessing all genders; exhibiting cultural characteristics of male and female. The term is specifically used to refute the concept of only two genders.

PANSEXUAL, OMNISEXUAL: Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.  Used by many in place of “bisexual,” which implies that only two sexes or genders exist.

POLYGENDERED, PANGENDERED: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders; deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.

QUEER: Anyone who chooses to identify as such. This can include, but is not limited to, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, intersex people, asexual people, allies, leather fetishists, freaks, etc. Not all the people in the above subcategories I.D. as queer, and many people NOT in the above groups DO.   This term has different meanings to different people.  Some still find it offensive, while others reclaim it to encompass the broader sense of history of the gay rights movement. Can also be used as an umbrella term like LGBT, as in “the queer community.”

SAME GENDER LOVING: A term used by some African-American people who love, date, and/or have attraction to people of the same gender.  Often used by those who prefer to distance themselves from the terms they see as associated with the “White-dominated” queer communities.

SEX: A categorization based on the appearance of genitalia at birth. Refers to the biological characteristics chosen to assign humans as male, female, or intersex.

SEXUALITY:  The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION:  an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, and/or affectional attraction.  Terms include homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, non-monosexual, queer, and asexual, and may apply to varying degrees. Sexual orientation is fluid, and people use a variety of labels to describe their own.  Sometimes sexual preference is used but can be problematic as it implies choice.

STRAIGHT: A person (or adjective to describe a person) whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the “opposite” gender.

TRANSFAG: A trans male-identified person who is attracted to/loves other male-identified people.

TRANSGENDER: Used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans” or “trans*” (the asterisk indicates the option to fill in the appropriate label, ie. Transman). It describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned biological birth sex. Some commonly held definitions:
1. Someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
4. Some definitions also include people who perform gender or play with it.
5. Historically, the term was coined to designate a transperson who was not undergoing medical transition (surgery or hormones).

TRANSITION: An individualized process by which transsexual and transgender people ‘switch’ from one gender presentation to another. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (i.e. name, pronouns, interactions, etc.), medical (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), and legal (i.e. gender marker and name change, etc.). A trans* individual may transition in any combination, or none, of these aspects.

TRANSSEXUAL (TS):  A person who perceives themselves as a member of a gender that does not “match” the sex they were assigned at birth. Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans* people pursuing gender or sex reassignment.

TRANS MAN: Also referred to as FTM.

TRANSPHOBIA: A reaction of fear, loathing, and discriminatory treatment of people whose identity or gender presentation (or perceived gender or gender identity) does not “match,” in the societally accepted way, the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgendered people, intersex people, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and other non-monosexuals are typically the target of transphobia.

TRANS WOMAN: Also referred to as MTF.

TRYKE: A trans female-identified person who is attracted to/loves other female-identified people.

TWO SPIRIT: These terms describe indigenous people who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. These roles included wearing the clothing and performing the work that is traditional for both men and women. Dual-gendered, or “two-spirited,” people are viewed differently in different Native communities.  Sometimes they are seen without stigma and are considered emissaries from the creator, treated with deference and respect, or even considered sacred, but other times this is not the case. “Two-spirit” is the closest thing to an appropriate umbrella term in referring to these gender traditions among Native peoples.  However, even “two-spirit” is contested in modern usage.

WOMYN: Some people spell the word with a “y” as a form of empowerment to move away from the word “men” contained in the “traditional” spelling of women.

Borrowed from Patrick Califia, Emi Koyama and countless others.

To see this article in its entirety, please click the copyright information: Copyright © 2011 UC

RCASA Friday Facts: Dealing with Rape as a “Hate Crime”Within the Lesbian Community

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 8, 2012 at 5:00 am


In honor of LGBTQ month, we are reprinting another article that hilights the LGBTQ experience with sexual violence.

Dealing with Rape as a “Hate Crime”Within the Lesbian Community

© 2009 Pandora’s Project

By: Katy

As many of us know, homophobia does exist, and that homophobia often goes further than personally held beliefs or attitudes.

For many members of the lesbian community, the threat of so-called “hate crimes” has unfortunately become a part of everyday life. A LGBT hate crime (or bias – motivated attack) is any crime that occurs as a direct result, either in part or wholly, of an individual’s sexual / gender identity. It can take many forms, including murder, violent physical assault, sexual assault / rape, robbery and vandalism. It’s been estimated that 25% of lesbians have been the victim of some form of hate crime within the last 5 years (APA, 1998; SCH, 2006), although this figure could be higher as it can be difficult to ascertain whether the motivation for targeting a victim is their sexual orientation.

Rape and sexual assault can be used as a persecution weapon against lesbians. In fact it is estimated that approximately 10% of all hate crimes against lesbians includes some form of sexual assault (Comstock, 1999), and that members of the lesbian community are at higher risk of sexual assault partly because of explicit and implicit homophobic beliefs and attitudes (Gerard, 2003). Sexual assault in the context of a lesbian hate – crime, typically involves a male perpetrator or a group of male perpetrators. Therefore, for the context of this article, we will assume that the perpetrator is male.

Special considerations for the lesbian survivor of a sexual hate crime.

Any survivor of rape is likely to find the experience, and the aftermath of the experience, incredibly traumatic. Although every survivors experience is unique, there are certain potential psychological and physical effects and issues that are common among all rape survivors, irrespective of gender, age, ethnicity, race sexuality or sexual orientation. For an overview of this, please see the following Pandy’s articles:
Real Rape: What nobody’s telling you.
Common responses to trauma

However, as a lesbian survivor of rape, particularly when this was a hate crime, there are some special issues that you may find yourself dealing with.

An attack on your sexual identity:

As a lesbian, our sexual identity is often a core element of our being. For many of us, the battle to understand and accept our sexual identity as a lesbian is a process that has been developing over a significant proportion of our lives. Therefore, when we are raped because we identify as a lesbian, it can feel like a particularly personal attack on a fundamental facet of our being. It can feel particularly personal and dehumanizing because we have been violated because of who and what we are as a person, rather than being targeted randomly or opportunistically by our attacker.

It can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone has been driven to hurt you because they purport to “hate” you. Try to understand that although this may feel very personal, the majority of hate-crimes are carried out by strangers (or very loose acquaintances) who do not know you personally and so cannot hate the person that you are. The perpetrators of hate-crimes are usually ignorant and ill-informed individuals who are afraid of anything they perceive as different – and the failing is within them, not you.

Changing attitude regarding your sexuality as a result of rape:

Guilt and self-blame is experienced by the majority of rape survivors. Finding a reason to explain “why me?” is something many of us feel driven to do, and it can lead us to find reasons to blame ourselves for the sexual assault.

For general information on this, please see the following Pandy’s articles:
Was it my fault?
Countering self-blame

In this tradition, many lesbian survivors of LGBT bias rape may conclude that it is their sexuality which is responsible for the rape and for the pain they are now enduring. This could lead you to feel resentment towards yourself for being a lesbian, rationalizing that if you were different from what you are, then you would not have been raped.

This can undoubtedly be exacerbated in women who are not completely at ease and comfortable with their sexual orientation, and there may be increased confusion and a need to revisit previous issues as a result of the attack (Garnets et al, 1990). If, for example, you harbour any residual negative feelings about being a lesbian, you may start to question whether in fact you deserved to be raped as punishment for being gay (Herek, 1992).

If the sexual assault occurs at a time that coincides with “coming out” or thinking about coming out, you may feel even increased confusion and hesitation about doing this. Please remember that “coming out” should be at a time which feels right for you – and it may be a good idea to put off coming out until you feel more able to deal with the complexities that this can involve.

*Remember that NO ONE deserves to be raped. You are not to blame, and your sexuality is not to blame. The people responsible is the rapist and any person who encouraged him to hate.*

A revision in public expression of sexuality:

You may find yourself questioning the way you present yourself and whether you should revise your person appearance and sexual expression. For example, you may start asking yourself “Do I look gay?”, “Should I hold hands with my girlfriend in public” or “Should I really carry that banner at the Pride rally?”.

Although being a member of a lesbian community can largely be a great source of support, in the aftermath of a hate – crime, being a visible member of this community can also severely affect our perceived sense of safety. We can reason that as long as we are seen as a lesbian, then we have an increased vulnerability to be targeted for another assault, and hence withdraw from the lesbian community serves to protect us. Of course, not all lesbians feel the need to be publicly expressive of their sexuality or lesbian identification, but for those who have held this to be important, this questioning can result in a very real change in their public persona.

However, in the aftermath of a rate and hate – crime, you need to do whatever it is that makes you feel safest. If you would feel safest to not be so visible as a lesbian for a while – then that’s okay. It may be worth trying to explain to your partner and / or friends that toning down your visibility as a lesbian does not mean denying who you are.

Questioning your “lesbianism”:

Some lesbians who have been raped by a man may feel a sense of shame because having sex with a man has somehow tainted their pureness as a lesbian. In particular, this confusion may be exacerbated if you experienced sexual arousal during the rape.

Firstly, it’s important to try to realize that your sexual orientation is not in question. You were raped. You did not choose it or want it. In fact, rape saying nothing about you as a person at all.

Secondly, many women, irrespective of sexual orientation, become aroused during rape. This does not mean that you liked it or wanted it. Sexual arousal during rape is simply a response to sexual stimulation, and is a consequence of the way our bodies are wired. The intensity of the arousal, (i.e, whether there is orgasm or not) is only an indication of the physical reaction of our nerve endings to being stimulated, and all is says is that your body responded in the way is is designed to respond when touched in such a way.

You may also fear that your sexuality has been altered as a result of the rape because, like all survivors, you may experience some sexual dysfunction following the rape. The reasons for this can be very apparent when you are considering intimacy in a heterosexual relationship following a male-female rape. However, it can be very confusing for you and your partner to understand how a violent sexual experience with a male, can be transferred to a gentle and loving relationship with a female partner. However, in the words of one lesbian survivor, “it’s difficult to reclaim the path of pleasure from the source of pain”, and to some extent, the gender of the perpetrator is immaterial to the violation.

Reclaiming your sexuality is likely to take time, patience and commitment from you and your partner. Please see:

Reclaiming your sexuality
Book: Stolen Women – Reclaiming Sexuality
Book: Self-sexual healing

The trauma of penetration

If you have never previously experienced penetrative sexual intercourse before, you may experience additional trauma relating to physical pain / damage during the rape, as well as the psychological trauma of first-time penile penetration as the result of rape.

Penile penetration is obviously going to mean the possibility of STIs – something which many lesbian women may not have felt they needed to seriously address previously. For information on STIs, please see:

Dealing with STIs as the result of sexual assault
Sexually transmitted infections (RAINN)

Male-female rape is also going to introduce the possibility of pregnancy – particularly, as a lesbian, you are unlikely to be using any form of birth control. Firstly, its important to appreciate that pregnancy is not inevitable, and in fact statistics reveal that only between 1-4% of rapes result in pregnancy. However, it may be that you have to consider the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy for the first time, and therefore you may feel very confused and unsure about the implications of this, and what your options are. Please see:

Rape and Pregnancy
USA: Advice on pregnancy options and STI’s: 1.800.395.HELP
UK: Advice on pregnancy options 0800 028 2228
Australia: Advice on pregnancy options 1300 139 313

Gaining Support:

All survivors of rape and survivors of hate crimes are deserving of support and understanding following the assault. Many women find asking for help very difficult, and you may even feel that you should be able to deal with all of the issues independently and self-sufficiently. However, asking for help is not a sigh of weakness but a sign of strength and shows a commitment to recover from the ordeal.

Lesbians may feel comforted by the LGBT community, particularly as they are unlikely to be the only victim of a hate-crime known to them, and as such, peer support can be invaluable. If you live in a community with a larger LGBT population, you may have the luxury of access to LGBT support groups for victims of crime.

However, if you live within an area with a much smaller LGBT population, you may feel increasingly isolated, and be reluctant to seek support for fear that you may become very visible or that your experience may become sensationalized in a way which does not give you the support and understanding you need. The above phone lines are there to give you support.

As a lesbian survivor, you may also not have the support of family or friends because of issues surrounding your sexuality.

It’s also worth noting that partners are not always able to be the source of support you believed they would be. As many of a third of lesbian women are survivors of rape or sexual abuse, obviously your assault can trigger may trigger all sorts of traumatic memories of their own if they are also a survivor. Obviously, you may or may not have been aware of this in your partners past, and this can be very traumatic for you to deal with as a couple. It is advisable for you to both get support for your own individual issues, and to appreciate that your own healing has to take priority. Unless you get support for yourself, it is unlikely that you will be able to support your partner – and vice versa.

National helplines for survivors of crime / hate crimes are as follows. They should be able to direct you to appropriate resources within your area:

USA: 206.350-HATE
UK: 0845 30 30 900
NZ: (04) 474 8862
OZ: 1800 063 060

If you wish to start therapy – and many find this helpful – you may prefer to see a gay friendly therapist who should be aware of the issues you are dealing with, and how hate – crimes and rape could especially impact you. Lists of gay-friendly therapists can be found:
US friendly therapists
UK gay friendly therapists
Canadian gay friendly therapists

Local GLBT organizations will also have lists of local therapists who are comfortable treating lesbian clients.


There is certainly an issue with reporting hate crimes per-se to the police since both lesbians are about half as likely to report a crime perceived as a hate crime than a non-hate crime. You may find there are even more barriers to reporting rape for lesbian women than for heterosexual women, and you may fear facing additional victimization during the reporting process. Certainly, there is a general assumption among LGBT people that the police and criminal justice system are explicitly and implicitly homophobic. This general belief of inherent homophobia in society means that perpetrators may actually use this to keep their victim silent.

Many police forces now have specialized training for officers who deal with rape victims and victims of LGBT hate – crime. It is no longer the forgone conclusion that you will be treated insensitively and you’re rights violated. However, it may help to take a LGBT advocate with you, or at least a victim advocate, to ensure that you are supported throughout the process and your rights explained. Just having a friendly face can make the process much less daunting. Advocates can be requested from the following numbers:

USA: 206.350-HATE
UK: 0845 30 30 900 and GALOP 020 770 42040
NZ: (04) 474 8862
OZ: 1800 063 060

RCASA Friday Facts: The Problem with the Belief that Child Sexual Abuse Causes Homosexuality / Bisexuality

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 1, 2012 at 5:00 am

June is LGBTQ Pride Month! The following is reprinted from Pandora’s Project. Check out their website to read more:

The Problem with the Belief that Child Sexual Abuse Causes Homosexuality / Bisexuality

By Katy (© Pandora’s Project, 2009)

There is an assumption among some people that the reason people become homosexual or bisexual is because of trauma resulting from sexual abuse in childhood.

Understandably, the majority of LGBT people, when coming to terms with their sexual orientation or trying to understand it, will ask the inevitable question, “why?” or, more specifically, “why me?”. I personally have heard many LGBT survivors question whether their sexual orientation is a direct consequence of their earlier sexual abuse (Dimock, 1988).

Within the scientific and social science literature, there is a myriad of research claiming to have identified the direct cause for homosexuality. One of the hypotheses regularly tested is that of whether sexual abuse itself can be the cause of homosexuality in adult life. The results of this research is inconclusive since some research finds a direct correlation between child abuse and homosexuality (Macmillan, 1997; Tomeo et al, 2001; Holmes et al, 1998; Doll et al, 1992; Soukup, 1995; Shrier et al, 1988; Dickson; Finkelhor, 1984), whereas other research expressly denies any correlational link (Ridley, 2003; Balsam et al 2005; Bell et al, 1981; Hammersmith, 1982; Peters & Cantrall, 1991; Slap, 1998). Clearly, the jury is still out!

The intention of this article is not to question why someone becomes homosexual or heterosexual as despite there being many theories focussing on the nature verses nurture debate, there is no universally acknowledged conclusion. In the presence of such conflicting research, we are no closer to conclusively understanding whether a persons’ sexual orientation is determined or strongly influenced by a history of child sexual abuse. However, leaving contradictory statistics aside for the moment, the aim of this article is to identify how problematic it is to claim or jump to the conclusion that anyone is LGBT as a direct result of sexual abuse experiences. Its just some food for thought!

SO – why is it a problem to claim that CSA causes a person to become GLBT?

The numbers don’t add up!

The National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) 1.51% of the population of the US identify as GLBT, whereas other studies put this figure as high as 8% (Fay et al, 1989). However, statistics for people abused in childhood are significantly higher that this, with reliable estimates given for child sexual abuse to be 16% for males and 27% for females in the USA (NRCCSA, 1994).

Therefore, if there is a causal link between childhood sexual abuse and identifying as GLBT later in life, then why aren’t the figures for the number of GLBT people in the population reflected by the abuse statistics? There are significantly more cases of sexual abuse than there are people that identify as GLBT (Macmillan, 1997), and furthermore, the vast majority of persons sexually abused as children are heterosexual (Keith, 1991).

In addition to this, virtually all statistics agree that females are more likely to be sexually abused in childhood than males are – and yet, and yet there are proportionally more men that identify as being gay than there are women who identify as lesbian (Hite, 1991; Janus, 1993, Jefferson, 2001).

Isn’t it just too simplistic?

Some claim it is impossible to develop universal theories about the origins of homosexuality because there is no theory that is going to fit for every individual and every situation (Moberly,1983).

As human beings, we are very complex, and it is far too simplistic to say with any certainty that A caused B to happen. To use an analogy, you can teach someone who is left-handed to write with their right hand, but they will forever remain naturally left-handed.

One neuroscientist wrote, “Any human behavior is going to the result of complex intermingling of genetics and environment. It would be astonishing is it were not true for homosexuality” (McFadden, 1998).

The discrepancy between genders:

Some people question whether it is the fact that they were abused by a man / woman that results in their being GLBT.

Female children are statistically more likely to be abused by a male. Lesbian survivors may question whether the reason they are a lesbian is because they fear men as a result of their abuse. This could make sense until you consider the gay male argument related to this.

Male children are also statistically more likely to be abused by a male. Some claim that a man may become gay because he has been abused by a man and therefore identifies sex with men.

In effect, this proposes that a female becomes a lesbian as she is so scared of men because she relates all men to her male abuser. BUT a male actually becomes gay, and hence seeks relationships with men, because he had a male abuser??

Homosexuality itself could increase the chance of abuse:

There is one interesting theory put forward by Wachob (1999) that children who grow up later to identify as LGBT are more at risk of sexual abuse as children. She stipulates that being abused does not cause homosexuality, but rather that children who will later identify as LGBT are more vulnerable to child abuse.

The reasons she gives for this is that LGBT adults report that their behavior and interaction with others was often atypical in childhood when compared to their peers. Being or feeling “different” can result in social isolation / exclusion, which in turn can lead to a child being more vulnerable to the instigation and continuation of abuse (Gracia, 2003).

In addition to this, many gay men in particular, report that they remember feeling dissatisfied or uncomfortable with their body as children, and as young teens they sought out situations in which to try to make sense of their sexual feelings (O’ Leary, 2006). Unfortunately, therefore, abuse could occur in this situation because abusers take advantage of the child’s uncertainties and insecurities.

Being GLBT is not dysfunctional!

Claims that GLBT can be “caused” by child sexual abuse are troublesome because this implicitly implies that being GLBT is not a positive thing, but something that has occured as a result of serious trauma. Therefore are we not comparing being GLBT to suffering from PTSD, DID or depression? Being GLBT is not an illness!

Infact, talking of illness, according to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), a history of sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as GLBT that in people who identify as heterosexual.

Of course, sexual abuse can interfere with a survivors sexual development, sexual enjoyment, the way they engage in sexual behaviors, the ability to know and voice what they want – but it seems unlikely that it would play a role in creating passion, attraction and love for another person.

It just feels “right”

For many LGBT people, they just feel that their sexual orientation is “right” for them. Like it just clicks in with who they are and that it is naturally how they identify with themselves, with others and with the world. As one woman said “I know I was predestined to be a lesbian. If I wasn’t, it wouldn’t feel so perfect” (anonymous).

“The truth is that sexual abuse and sexuality are a million miles apart; they truly have nothing in common. Something as wonderful and beautiful as our sexuality could never have arisen out of something as ugly and painful as sexual abuse.” (Kali Munto, 2002)

RCASA Friday Facts: Mental Health Reactions to Sexual Assault

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on May 25, 2012 at 5:00 am
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and RCASA is exploring the link between sexual assault and mental health issues.

What are some early reactions to sexual assault?

In the first few days and weeks following the assault, it is very normal for a woman to experience intense and sometimes unpredictable emotions. She may have repeated strong memories of the event that are difficult to ignore, and nightmares are not uncommon. Women also report having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and they may feel jumpy or on edge. While these initial reactions are normal and expected, some women may experience severe, highly disruptive symptoms that make it incredibly difficult to function in the first month following the assault. When these problems disrupt the woman’s daily life, and prevent her from seeking assistance or telling friends and family members, the woman may have Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Symptoms of ASD include:

  • Feeling numb and detached, like being in a daze or a dream, or feeling that the world is strange and unreal
  • Difficulty remembering important parts of the assault
  • Reliving the assault through repeated thoughts, memories, or nightmares
  • Avoidance of things (places, thoughts, feelings) that remind the woman of the assault
  • Anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, concentrating, etc.)

What are some other reactions that women have following a sexual assault?

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Depression is a common reaction following sexual assault. Symptoms of MDD can include a depressed mood, an inability to enjoy things, difficulty sleeping, changes in patterns of sleeping and eating, problems in concentration and decision-making, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and decreased self-esteem. Research suggests that almost 1/3 of all rape victims have at least one period of MDD during their lives. And for many of these women, the depression can last for a long period of time. Thoughts about suicide are also common. Studies estimate that 1/3 of women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 17% of rape victims actually attempt suicide.


Many victims of sexual assault report struggling with anger after the assault. Although this is a natural reaction to such a violating event, there is some research that suggests that prolonged, intense anger can interfere with the recovery process and further disrupt a woman’s life.

Shame and guilt

These feelings are common reactions to sexual assault. Some women blame themselves for what has happened or feel shameful about being an assault victim. This reaction can be even stronger among women who are assaulted by someone that they know, or who do not receive support from their friends, family, or authorities, following the incident. Shame and guilt can also get in the way of a woman’s recovery by preventing her from telling others about what happened and getting assistance.

Social problems

Social problems can sometimes arise following a sexual assault. A woman can experience problems in her marital relationship or in her friendships. Sometimes an assault survivor will be too anxious or depressed to want to participate in social activities. Many women report difficulty trusting others after the assault, so it can be difficult to develop new relationships. Performance at work and school can also be affected.

Sexual problems

Sexual problems can be among the most long-standing problems experienced by women who are the victims of sexual assault. Women can be afraid of and try to avoid any sexual activity; they may experience an overall decrease in sexual interest and desire.

Alcohol and drug use

Substance abuse can sometimes become problematic for women who are the victims of assault. A large-scale study found that compared to non-victims, rape survivors were 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs. Often, women will report that they use these substances to control other symptoms related to their assault.


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves a pattern of symptoms that some individuals develop after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD include repeated thoughts of the assault; memories and nightmares; avoidance of thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the assault; and increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping and concentrating, jumpiness, irritability). One study that examined PTSD symptoms among women who were raped found that 94% of women experienced these symptoms during the two weeks immediately following the rape. Nine months later, about 30% of the women were still reporting this pattern of symptoms. The National Women’s Study reported that almost 1/3 of all rape victims develop PTSD sometime during their lives and 11% of rape victims currently suffer from the disorder.

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