Marks: On sexual violence
The statistics for sexual abuse, assault and rape in the queer community are shocking. One in two transgender people are sexually abused or assaulted in their life. One in ten of those individuals have been sexually assaulted in a healthcare setting (at a doctor’s office, for example). 46 percent of bisexual women have been raped. It’s likely that these statistics are skewed too low, because queer and trans people are less likely to disclose their sexuality and gender identity. In comparison to statistics regarding heterosexual and cisgender people, the risk is much higher.
No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, abused or raped. But queer and trans people already go through a lot. We suffer because of societal pressures to conform. We put up with hate crimes and speech. We watch as our government takes away and limits our rights, which should be allotted to any human being. We don’t deserve these statistics.
So why are we continually victimized?
The primary reason sexual violence is committed against the LGBTQIA+ community is as a means to oppress us. By committing sexual violence against a queer or trans person because of their identity, it discourages us from identifying that way publicly. Since we are more targeted than cisgender, heterosexual people, publicly identifying as LGBTQIA+ automatically puts us at a further risk. This is harmful because it perpetrates the idea that a queer or trans person will become a victim of sexual violence if they choose to be public about their identity. No one, no matter what their identity, should feel unsafe when expressing themselves.
There are many ways you can help somebody who has been a victim of sexual violence. The most important thing to emphasize is that it’s not their fault. I still think that what happened to me was my fault — I shouldn’t have let myself be manipulated, I should have been stronger, I shouldn’t have been drinking. But the reality is, the other people still chose to assault and abuse me. They were the perpetrators. I know I’m not the only one who feels guilty for what happened to me.
It’s also important to stay supportive of the victim throughout the effects of sexual violence that they may experience. These include depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, substance abuse, dissociation and sleep disorders. Beyond that, there is a probability that they will get an STI or become pregnant. While these symptoms may be scary and difficult to deal with for an ally, being sexually assaulted is a worse hardship. It’s your job to support the victim unconditionally throughout their recovery.
Another thing you can do is encourage the victim to get professional help if they aren’t already. Even though being supportive and somebody to trust is helpful, professionals such as therapists or sexual violence counselors are better equipped to assist the victim throughout this difficult time.
The University of Oregon has several resources available to students. These include a 24-hour crisis hotline (541-346-7233), Sexual Assault Support Services and Womenspace. The comprehensive section on their website also includes information for survivors, services available and a page on knowing what your options are as a survivor of sexual violence. Furthermore, they include police department numbers in the case that survivors wish to report their assault, abuse or rape to law enforcement.
The University of Oregon also has a support group for survivors of sexual violence and allies, called Empower UO. They meet Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. in the Carson Ramey room. They also host a “Writing for Healing” group on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Elm Room of the EMU.
In closing, I would like to address survivors of sexual violence of any sort. Please know that what happened to you was not your fault. The person or people who did this to you are messed up. You don’t deserve what happened to you. I encourage you to seek help in whatever ways are accessible to you, whether it’s talking to a friend, finding a therapist or joining a support group. No matter where you are, there will be people there who are willing to support you throughout this difficult time.
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