Sexual Assault Awareness Month
With increased media attention to survivors of sexual assault through the #MeToo movement, more individuals have felt empowered to speak out against their perpetrators in solidarity. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, or race; though too often, black and brown bodies, trans bodies and femme bodies are the targets of such violence. Victims are never to blame and have rights to counseling, healthcare forensic examination and reporting services. New York State recently passed a comprehensive Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights that specifies what victims are entitled to. Sexual assault awareness month every April provides a platform to continue the dialogue and welcome new voices to the narrative.
Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Affirmative consent requires a verbal ‘yes’ for every and all sexual acts free of threat, intimidation, and coercion. Silence, inaction, and non-verbals do not constitute consent. Unfortunately, each state defines rape and sexual assault differently and reports and responds based on their local law, further complicating the situation and overwhelming victims.
Unfortunately, LGBTQ voices have been largely absent in the ‘Me Too’ Movement. Our already quieted voices in mainstream media have been perpetuated as the ‘Me Too’ Movement has overlooked us. We need to continue to provide platforms and resources for other survivors to feel the same support.
Higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization in our communities put us at greater risk of sexual assault. Coupled with the hyper-sexualization of LGBTQ people and the stigmatization of our relationships can lead to increased rates of sexual violence. Many LGBTQ people face isolation which can be heightened after a sexual assault. Sexual assault is not talked about enough in queer communities and our unique needs and support are not being adequately met.
One obstacle to addressing sexual assault and understanding its severity is the lack of consistent data. It is estimated that 60 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and thus don’t make it into national surveys. It can be hard for victims to understand and verbalize their assault, leading many victims to not report. The decision not to report is often purposeful for reasons ranging from fear of victim blaming and retaliation, not wanting to relive and talk about their assault, lack of support, not knowing how to report, and mistrust or fear of law enforcement. Many members of LGBTQ communities don’t feel safe or trust in medical and law enforcement facilities, making it harder to report and seek care. For people who do want to report, statutes of limitation, varying definitions of sexual assault, and not having evidence are barriers. This imperfect reporting system and data available do not tell the full story.
The table below shows sexual assault data based on gender and sexual orientation. This data shows the prevalence across sexual orientation and gender identities.
|Lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner|
The sexual violence epidemic in the LGBTQ community is something we must all work together to address. If someone discloses that they have been sexually assaulted, believe and support them. Remind them that it wasn’t their fault and that there are confidential resources available. Within 4 days of a sexual assault you can go to any hospital emergency department and request a sexual assault medical exam that will include STI testing, access to PEP and emergency contraception, referral to mental health services, and forensic examination, also known as a rape kit. It’s recommended to present as soon as possible for best collection of evidence. Some New York State Emergency Rooms have an extra designation as SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam) Program sites. This means they always have staff on hand who has undergone a special training on collecting evidence from people who have been assaulted—training that includes affirming the sexual identity and gender presentation of victims as well as techniques for best evidence collection. Here you can find a list of SAFE-designated facilities.
Below is a list of New York and national LGBTQ affirming resources for survivors:
- NYC based LGBTQ + HIV affected community’s violence prevention
- Provide legal, care coordination, and group counseling services
- 24/7 hotline 212.714.1141
- Patients receiving medical care at Callen-Lorde are able to receive behavioral health care following an assault that will address acute needs.
- We provide a warm hand off to partner organization for additional resources.
- Dedicated to supporting victims of crimes and providing financial help to cover medical bills, counseling, and lost wages due to crimes. Learn more about victim rights, protects and how to schedule an appointment here,
- Weekday business hour hotline 212.514.7233
- Provide education, research, and advocacy around sexual assault.
- Free and confidential counseling
- Emergency room advocacy
- Legal advocacy
- Education and training
- National transgender anti-violence organization
- Provide trauma-informed and empowerment-focused counseling to survivors and victims of sexual assault
- National organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth
- 24/7 lifeline 866.488.7386 for immediate help
- 24/7 supportive counseling hotline where you will be routed to a local organization based on your area code 800.656.4673
James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C.H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S.L. (2007). The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R.
Office of Victim Services. (2014). Responding to Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault. http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html
Walters, M.L., Chen J., & Breiding, M.J. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention