The Disgusting Truth About Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ+ Community

Disclaimer: 

This article talks about sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, and stalking particularly in accordance to the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the following may be triggering to read.

If you are a victim of sexual violence and you need help, call 800.656.HOPE to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

As social justice movements are booming, it’s important to take a magnifying glass to movements that need to do better. 

The past decade – give or take – feminism has been changing and shifting, one of the most recent being the loud and passionate fight against sexual assault and rape, and specifically making note of it within hierarchal structures of employment and power structures. These conversations and the activism and action that has resulted from them have been earth-shatteringly important, and while we still have a long way to go in sexual assault laws and discrimination in this country, the conversation is taking hold on mainstream media as a one we need to be having. That is something that I am so grateful for. However, the hole where the same activism and action should be for LGBTQ+ people is daunting one in comparison. 

While the conversations in media and society surrounding sexual assault are happening far too late and are increasingly important, the movement is failing to mention and include LGBTQ+ members of society as well. As an activist who has worked in the field professionally to fight against and educate on sexual assault in our community, I’m disappointed to find that as I wrote this article, there was so much that I didn’t know. After working in professional activism for four years and counting, it was irresponsible of me to have not thought to actively include LGBTQ+ people in my activism. The fact of the matter is though, I’m not alone in my failings of my own community. This has been going on for far too long – example being that the most recent articles highlighting this issue were published in 2018, even though LGBTQ+ people experience sexual violence at comparable rates to straight people, sometimes even higher. To put that broad statement into context:

  • 44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner 
  • 47% of transgender people experience sexual assault
  • 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
  • 13% of lesbian women and 46% of bisexual women have been raped 
  • 40% of gay men and 47% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21% of straight men
  • 48% of bisexual women who are rape survivors have experienced their first rape between the ages of 11-17
  • It is estimated that 50% of transgender people and bisexual women experience sexual violence at some point in their lives by an intimate partner.
  • 65% of American Indian, 59% of multiracial, 58% of Middle Eastern, and 53% of Black people were most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime
  • 20% of LGBTQ+ people who were incarcerated in jail, prison, or juvenile detention had been sexually assaulted by staff in the past year (which, at time of release, was 2015).
  • 17% of LGBTQ+ who stayed at one or more homeless shelters were sexually assaulted in the past year, particularly because they were transgender
  • 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted

Human Rights Campaign

RAINN.org

It’s also important to take note of the fact that there are higher rates of “hate-motivated violence, which often takes the form of sexual assault” (Human Rights Campaign). 

Alongside the conversation of sexual assault and violence, budded another equally important conversation, being the specific focus on sexual assault and violence in Hollywood – namely, Harvey Weinstein. While it’s important that we create a space for women to come forward and share their stories so they can get the justice they deserve, LGBTQ+ people deserve the same grace. 

In 2008, LGBTQ+ Oscar award winning filmmaker Dustin Lance Black said, “we need to create an environment in Hollywood where women and LGBTQ people feel safe and then we will see more diversity among the people who succeed in television and film” (Goldsmith, Reuters). Let me say that again: he said that in 2008. 12 years ago. To update the timeline, in 2017 Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual harassment by Anthony Rapp. We know that sexual assault against LGBTQ+ people not only exists but is prevalent. To compare it to the number of women who have experienced it in Hollywood (that we know of), it is undeniable that it exists within the hierarchy of Hollywood against LGBTQ+ actors as well. 

As another example, Bryan Singer (director of films such as The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, and Bohemian Rhapsody) has had allegations of sexual misconduct almost from the moment he began to rise in Hollywood. Maximillian Potter and Alex French published a report on The Atlantic of “12 months’ worth of investigative work regarding the accusations of rape and coercive sex with men and underaged boys.” After the report was published, Singer remains employed as director of upcoming film Red Sonja – the main character of which is a sexual assault survivor. Avi Lerner, CEO of Millennium Films producing Red Sonja stated in response to the allegations:

“I continue to be in development for Red Sonja and Bryan Singer continues to be attached. The over $800 million Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed, making it the highest grossing drama in film history, is a testament to his remarkable vision and acumen. I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision.”

                                                                                                                  The Atlantic,

Garber

Bryan Singer grooming

On the opposing side however, the allegations were taken far more seriously, as another prominent actor (who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns) states, “after the Harvey Weinstein news came out, everyone thought Bryan Singer would be next” (Garber).  

So why aren’t we hearing about it?

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As we traverse through the emotionally tolling conversation about sexual assault within the LGBTQ+ community, it would be irresponsible not to note the concerns specific to LGBTQ+ survivors that other survivors of sexual violence do not experience. 

Outside of the issue of sexual assault, the violent forces in society all have the capability of going hand in hand to harm LGBTQ+ survivors. With the decision of reporting sexual violence, there is a risk of being forced out of the closet. LGBTQ+ people also experience high rates of sexual violence at colleges and at homeless shelters. We are also at a high risk of receiving discrimination from the very systems and authority figures that we are supposed to be able to seek help within. (See: Hospitals, shelters, rape crisis centers, law enforcement and police forces.)

With all of this taken into consideration, it is clear that this activism is acutely nuanced and overwhelmingly important. Ignorance to these LGBTQ+ specific concerns allows space for LGBTQ+ survivors to be oppressed and discriminated against time and time again.

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The statistics stated previously were from a 2015 survey. These numbers have been public for five years, yet virtually nothing has changed. LGBTQ+ people are still suffering, but it’s in silence. The lack of awareness and reporting surrounding this vile issue is an injustice in itself.  So as social justice movements are changing and people are growing, let this be something that we fight for. 

We still have so far to go on the issue of sexual assault and rape and the societal structures in place to enable that behavior, but the conversation must include LGBTQ+ people as well. We deserve safety in our own bodies. Within the trenches of homophobia and misogyny lives the emptiness where this conversation should be. We need to do better.

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