People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and also as survivors of sexual assault face not only the barriers to seeking help that all survivors face, but also a range of obstacles that are unique to the LGBT community.
Like all survivors, LGBT survivors often feel self-blame, shame, fear, anger, and depression.
LGBT survivors may also be led to question their sexuality, or how it is perceived by others, especially if the assault was perpetrated as a hate crime, directed against the survivor’s sexual orientation or gender identity as perceived by the perpetrator.
LGBT survivors may feel ostracized.
They may feel this from both mainstream society and the LGBT community. They may also feel that their sexual orientation or gender identity is focused on more than the assault itself.
Transgender people may not want to seek hospital care.
This is because it would mean revealing that they are a gender other than the sex they were born to, which in turn might cause discrimination.
LGBT survivors may feel punished for acting outside of society’s prescribed gender roles.
This may increase the amount of shame that they feel as a result of an assault.
LGBT survivors may be reluctant to tell family and friends who do not approve of their lifestyle.
They may fear that it will only reinforce negative stereotypes.
LGBT survivors may have privacy concerns within their LGBT community.
Particularly with small and tight-knit communities, they may be reluctant to tell others about an assault or an abusive relationship, fearing that everyone will know.
LGBT survivors may lack support not only from their communities.
This refers not only to the community at large, but also from the LGBT community itself. LGBT community members may not want to admit that there is sexual assault and domestic violence within the their community, for fear that it will only perpetuate stereotypes about LGBT people.
LGBT survivors who do choose to come forward face a range of difficulties that heterosexual survivors do not face.
Survivors who are not “out” may not want to seek counseling for fear that doing so will mean disclosing their sexual orientations as well.
There is often heterosexism and homophobia in the systems that are designed to help survivors.
This can mean overt discrimination against LGBT survivors, or it can be the assumption that all survivors are heterosexual. The legal system may also be discriminatory, and may not even recognize same-sex assault.
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 with all cases of sexual assault, these myths can only be dispelled when they are replaced by truth. This requires that members of the LGBT community and heterosexual allies speak out and acknowledge sexual assault and domestic violence within the LGBT community, in order to both prevent future assaults and to provide competent and compassionate care to survivors.