Paige Leigh Baker, Psy.D., in.power* The Sexual Harm Response Project Program Manager
Content Note: The following is a discussion of sexual violence against LGBTQ people in regards to the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
Last week, Brett Kavanaugh, the current proposed Supreme Court nominee, underwent questioning as part of the nomination process. His hearing brought forward the story of survivor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who heroically shared her account of a sexual assault by Kavanaugh. While conversations around the trial have been heavy and movements against sexual violence have gained visibility, LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence have been left out of these important conversations.
Queer and transgender folks experience sexual violence at significantly higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44% of lesbian women experienced stalking, physical violence, and rape by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. This same survey found that bisexual and gay men are twice as likely to experience sexual violence, while 1 in 2 bisexual women were raped. Additionally, the 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 47% of trans and non-binary people experience sexual violence at least once during their lifetime. While these numbers are alarming, they are likely a vast underestimation of the true prevalence of sexual violence in Queer communities.
As we have seen throughout the Kavanaugh hearing, social stigma and other systems of oppression place the burden and responsibility of reporting on survivors. Current systems of disclosure can be triggering and prevent survivors from reporting given the historical and continued violence Black, Latinx and Queer communities have faced from law enforcement. When a survivor does make a decision to report, they are often not believed or validated. This is especially true for LGBTQ survivors. Lack of representation in the larger anti-violence movement or dialogue within the LGBTQ community around sexual violence, can make it difficult for community members to heal.
It’s essential to remember that the current news can be triggering for many, especially those who are survivors of sexual violence. Dialogue and coverage around high profile cases can often make queer and trans survivors of sexual violence feel that their narratives and pain are being erased or ignored. When discussing the trial with friends and acquaintances, remember that you don’t know everyone’s narrative, and if someone chooses not to engage with dialogue, it could be a method of protection. Caring for yourself during these emotionally difficult times is important. Howard Brown Health staff are here to support you wherever you are at in your journey.
in.power*, the Sexual Harm Response Project, is a program at Howard Brown dedicated to providing affirming and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence. in.power* allows survivors to determine what their healing looks like and assists them in navigating their day-to-day needs as they are impacted by sexual assault. We offer free medical and case management to all survivors of sexual violence.
And to every survivor, know that we at Howard Brown stand with you in health, in support, in pride, and in.power.