Sexual assault not just a ‘straight’ issue

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Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

When most people think of sexual assault, they think of a man assaulting a woman. But this generalization of a serious issue can be problematic. Sexual assault is not just a “straight people” issue: Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals deal with extreme cases of sexual assault throughout their lifetimes.

The general statistics surrounding sexual assault are alarming in and of themselves. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Each year, there are approximately 293,000 victims of sexual assault. The statistics on reporting sexual assault are not comforting either: 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police and 98 percent of rapists will never see prison time.

With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this reminds us that through a combination of myths and stigma, sexual assault in the LGBT community is often rendered invisible or completely dismissed, even though there are statistics from the CDC that show the rate of sexual assault for LGBT individuals is higher than the sexual assault rate for heterosexual individuals.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, bisexual women are disproportionally impacted by sexual assault, experiencing a significantly higher lifetime prevalence of physical violence, stalking and/or rape by an intimate partner and rape by any perpetrator when compared to heterosexual women. Approximately one in five bisexual women (22 percent), and nearly one in 10 heterosexual women (nine percent), have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

In these studies, the percentage of LGBT individuals who have been sexually assaulted is higher than for heterosexuals. But the most shocking of all is the struggles transgender people must go through.

According to the Office for Victims of Crime, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. This shows that the majority of transgender people are struggling with the aftermath of sexual assault and fear of potential repeat victimization.

Then why is it that LGBT people, especially transgender individuals, experience such higher rates of sexual assault? And more importantly, why do their struggles often go unnoticed when looking at the issue of sexual assault.

I’m tired of hearing about violence being committed against transgender people and I’m tired of hearing about members of the community being ridiculed for their sexuality, something only they can decide.

Whether straight or gay, transgender or bisexual, we all deserve the same level of respect. And no one deserves to be hurt in any relationship.

Some of these sexual assaults in the LGBT community can be prevented. We can implement prevention approaches that promote acceptance and recognition of healthy, respectful relationships, no matter what sexuality you identify as. LGBT should be included in national, state and local violence research, and we can refer victims and survivors to culturally-appropriate accessible services.

Survivors within the LGBT community deserve just as much attention and resources for help and safety within their community and their struggles should not be forgotten when thinking about sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, feel free to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Help is out there.

Devyn Giannetti is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]