While men’s sexual violence against women is unarguably a social and public health issue, both nationally representative data and smaller studies tell us that rates for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or otherwise not-heterosexual, not-cisgender) individuals are equally or significantly more likely to experience sexual violence and assault. Despite this, there remains little structural support for LGBTQ+ survivors. This project centered the voices and experiences of QTPOC-identified (queer and trans people of color) young people in Richmond, mostly Black and Latinx, who have experienced sexual violence, who came together to plan and execute three community conversations and corresponding post-conversation wellness activities (such as yoga, trauma-informed massage, and salsa dancing lessons). During these conversations, nearly all survivors reported that the level of awareness regarding sexual violence in their communities was limited. Survivors reported specific difficulty in identifying abusive behavior, as many of them had experienced other forms of violence from family and/or since a young age. Isolation–both figuratively, because the LGBTQ+ community in Richmond is relatively small, and literally because of living outside the city in rural areas–was described as central to experiences of abuse. Many survivors reported that they largely did not attempt to or could not successfully access mainstream services, due to concerns about homophobia, transphobia, and racism. To address sexual violence in LGBTQ+ communities, survivors pointed to the importance of friendship, peer and community networks “outside the system,” resource sharing about LGBTQ+ specific violence tactics (such as “outing” or HIV status stigma), and holding abusers accountable for their behavior within LGBTQ+ specific circles and spaces. Findings highlight the need to move beyond “culturally competent” health care by proactively engaging LGBTQ+ communities in education, networking, resource sharing, and anti-violence outreach.
Faculty MembersVirginia Anti-Violence Project (https://virginiaavp.org/)
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