Students groups work to create a culture of consent and support in the LGBTQ community

The ASUO Women’s Center and Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County present Take Back the Night in Eugene, Ore. on Thursday, April 30, 2015. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

Sexual assault issues are often framed as strictly involving a heterosexual male perpetrator and a heterosexual female survivor. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer can find themselves underrepresented, despite being part of a group who faces higher rates of sexual assault.

According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women have been victims of intimate partner violence in the form of rape, physical violence and/or stalking, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women. In the same survey, it is mentioned that 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men have experienced the same intimate partner violence, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men.

Take Back the Night, held on April 30, focused on intersectionality and sexual assault in the LGBTQ community.

The event featured a performance by the University of Oregon Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team identifying the individual experiences of different groups of students around sexual assault issues.

SWAT mentioned the high rates of sexual violence faced by the LGBTQ community, specifically transgender persons. According to a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 64 percent were the victims of sexual assault.

The SWAT discussed hyper-sexualized LGBTQ stereotypes. Conor Gagner, SWAT education intern, said those stereotypes may be misinterpreted as a sexual culture within the community, spanning back from the era of gay bathhouses to the popularity of Grindr, which can negatively affect the understanding of sexual assault within the queer community.

“Part of our intersectionality is remembering to call out other queer people on their problematic behavior.” Gagner said at TBTN.

Ariel Howland is a UO alumni and a Portland-based transgender activist working on issues of sexual violence, transgender justice and racial justice. At TBTN Howland said that trans women survivors commonly face transphobic hostility and ignorance when trying to seek support from survivor advocacy non-profit groups. She also spoke about how trans men have to ‘leave their gender identity at the door’ in order to get survivor support.

“Since some trans men are frequently assumed to be cis (cisgender) women, sometimes trans men will stay closeted about being men in order to access support services that are designed for cis women,” Howland told the Emerald in an email.

A 2010 report by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs shows that only one in five survivors of assault, from a perpetrator of the same gender, received victim services.

Several student groups at the University of Oregon are involved in creating a culture of consent and support within LGBTQ communities. The LGBTQA is one of them. The group held a meeting on consent earlier in the year about building a consent culture and talking about how they can achieve that as both individuals and a queer community. The group also brought in actress Mollena Williams to talk about safe, healthy and consensual sex.

Adrion Trujillo, community liaison of the UO LGBTQA, believes that more awareness of the issue of sexual assault in the queer community is beneficial.

“Times are changing in that, before people would be ashamed to even admit that they were queer, so that got in the way of talking about their assaults, because talking about their assaults on a foundational level meant ‘coming out,'” Trujillo said. “Because queer issues and issues of sexual assault are coming to light, they both sort of work off each other, and people feel that they have more license nowadays to be able to talk about their assault and work through it.  But that’s not always true for everyone.”

Note: A previous version of this article stated Ariel Howland as a “local activist,” she is in fact based in Portland. 

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