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LGBT/GLBT/LGB/LGBTQ are acronyms used to refer to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or are questioning their sexual orientation or identity. Transgender is a term commonly used as an umbrella definition to refer to individuals whose gender identity and/or behaviors do not conform to traditional binary gender norms or cross gender lines. It is important to understand that not all individuals are accepting of these labels.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, including individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Whatever the circumstances of the assault, they may have additional fears and concerns specifically related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These concerns may be not only about the assault, but also about how they will be treated by health care professionals, law enforcement, legal professionals, their friends and family and/or their partner. They may fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity will be seen as the central issue to first responders, instead of the assault. Some may fear losing custody of their children, if a family member or a former partner learns of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to sexual assault that occurs within the context of a relationship, people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender also experience high levels of violent acts perpetrated by people who are not accepting of individuals who are 'non-conforming.' When sexual assaults are perpetrated against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender as a way of "punishing" them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these assaults tend to be more violent and often cause more injuries than non-biased sexual assaults (Gentlewarrior, 2009). These acts are also considered hate crimes. It is important to remember that an assault is never the victim's fault. Additionally, everyone has the right to be provided with nonjudgmental services.
Call 1-800-656-HOPE for free, confidential support and help.
Barriers to Reporting and Seeking Services:
In addition to reasons many victims of sexual assault do not report or seek services, LGBT individuals also may experience the following barriers:
- • Fear of being "outed"
- • Fear that sexual orientation/gender will become the focus rather than the assault
- • Unsure if services are inclusive
- • Fear of not being believed, ridiculed or harassed
- • Lack of community acceptance/support of LGBT individuals
- • Fear of reinforcing stereotypes and/or betraying the LGBT community
Responding to LGBT Victims
Your initial response should be based on the victim's self-identified needs rather than your personal opinions and/or family members' concerns.
The following are tips for effectively responding to LGBT victims (drawn from Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault: A Journey to Justice, Health and Healing):
- • Address your own feelings/bias of homo/bi/transphobia.
- • Educate yourself; don't rely on victims for education.
- • Don't ask unnecessary questions about victims' sexual practices or bodies.
- • Maintain confidentiality; do not 'out' a person to other staff/colleagues.
- • Support victims and assure them that their feelings and responses are normal.
- • Do not assume victims' gender or sexual orientation.
- • Ask questions in a way that does not assume the gender of a perpetrator.
- • Don't make judgments or place blame on victims.
Ways to Increase Access to Services:
- • Collaborate with LGBT agencies
- • Provide information and education to staff related to LGBT populations
- • Foster an inclusive environment (e.g., revise agency forms and policies)
- • Train staff to appropriately respond to disclosures and be cognizant of language used by the individual seeking services
- • Avoid assumptions based on appearances and gender identification (e.g., don't assume someone who identifies as transgender is lesbian, gay or bisexual)
Gentlewarrior, S. (2009, September). Culturally Competent Service Provision to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved September 09, 2009 from: http://www.vawnet.org
Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault: A Journey to Justice, Health and Healing, Revised 2009.