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LGBT - Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence and/or Stalking

Relationship Violence

Relationship violence is a pattern of intentional intimidation for the purpose of gaining and then maintaining power and control over another. The abuse almost always escalates over time. This routine intimidation through abusive acts and/or words is not a gender issue but rather a power issue.

In some ways, violence in same-gender relationships resembles violence in heterosexual relationships:

  • It does happen. Some gay men and lesbians abuse their partners.
  • Violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or verbal.
  • The purpose of abuse is to get and maintain control and power over one's intimate partner.
  • The abused may feel isolated, terrified, and debilitated by the violence.
  • Abuse does not happen all the time, it often occurs in a cyclical fashion.
  • Unpredictable attacks are a part of the tyranny.
  • The victim/survivor may feel as if s/he cannot do anything right.
  • Domestic violence can be lethal.
  • The myth persists that abuse is a relationship problem and may be mutual.
  • A sense of entitlement exists among perpetrators; they believe that they have the right to empower themselves by over powering others.
  • Abuse in the home severely impacts the children living in that home, whether or not they are the direct recipient of the abuse.
  • Substance abuse may make domestic violence more dangerous and damaging.

In other ways, however, violence in same-gender relationships differs from violence in heterosexual relationships:

  • Lesbians and gay men who have been abused have much more difficulty finding support.
  • Batterers often blackmail their victim into silence – “coming out” to one’s parents or employer is sometimes seen as being more frightening than the abuse.
  • The isolation, that already accompanies being LGBT person in a society prejudiced against LGBT people, is compounded and made worse by domestic violence. The silence about domestic violence among LGBT people further isolates the victim/survivor as well as the perpetrator.
  • Utilizing existing services may be synonymous to "coming out" which is a major life decision.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a broad term that encompasses a continuum of words and actions varying in degree from harassing comments of a sexual nature to sexual contact (including, but not limited to sexual intercourse) when such contact is achieved:

  • Without consent; or
  • With the use of physical force, coercion, deception or threat; or,
  • When the victim/survivor is mentally incapacitated or impaired, physically helpless, asleep or unconscious.

Sexual violence includes rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, stranger rape, date/acquaintance rape, partner/marital rape, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism.

What is same-sex sexual assault?

  • Same-sex sexual assault may include (but is not limited to) forced vaginal or anal penetration, forced oral sex, forced touching, or any additional form of forced sexual activity.
  • Same-sex sexual assault may occur on a date, between friends, partners or strangers.

A sexual assault is an attack not only on a person’s body, but also on her/his dignity and emotional well-being. A sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim.

Sexual assaults happen to and are committed by, people of all sexual orientations.

Are LGBT people more likely than heterosexuals to be perpetrators of sexual violence?

No. Due to the oppression of LGBT individuals, they have faced discrimination for their gender orientation and sexual orientation; their sexual activities have been criminalized. In the vast majority of cases, perpetrators are heterosexual men. One common myth for LGBT individuals is that they are pedophiles. Actually, several studies have reported that heterosexual adults are more likely to be a threat to children than LGBT individuals.

Are LGBT people more likely than heterosexuals to be sexually assaulted by a stranger?

Regrettably, the answer is yes. Due to the heightened homophobia in the United States, LGBT individuals are at a greater risk for sexual assaults by strangers. Perpetrators frequently use sexual assaults against LGBT individuals (and individuals perceived to be LGBT) to punish and humiliate them. This can be seen when an individual believes that they can “change” a woman’s sexual orientation by specifically targeting lesbian and bisexual women for sexual assaults.

Issues regarding sexual assault that are unique to the LGBT community:

  • Survivors who are not “out” may find sharing and/or reporting the sexual assault difficult or impossible.
  • Due to the lack of awareness of same-sex sexual assault the LGBT community may make silence appear the only option.
  • If the survivor’s community is small, the fear of other’s skepticism and/or people “taking sides” may cause the survivor to keep silent.
  • Guilt and self-blame (which are common symptoms of all survivors) may lead to questioning ones sexual identity and sexuality.
  • One’s own internalized homophobia may further complicate the complexities of sexual assault.
  • Gay/bi male survivors may be apprehensive to report and fears being ignored and/or rejected as overly sensitive due to the stereotype that they are promiscuous and invited upon themselves.
  • Lesbian/bi women survivors may face being ignored or having their claims discarded if their attacker is a female because women are not socially seen as sexual perpetrators.

UMM Violence Prevention Program

 The UMM Violence Prevention Program offers free, confidential advocacy services for victims/survivors and concerned persons affected by sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. All advocates are educated on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns. The program also coordinates campus efforts to prevent violence.

Resources for the LGBT Community  

  • QIC- Queer Issues Committee