CDC survey reports sexual violence levels just as high for lesbians, gay men as heterosexuals

Lesbians and gay men experience intimate partner and sexual violence at levels equal to or higher than heterosexuals.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s first National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which tracked the national prevalence data on intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual violence (SV) and stalking victimization by sexual orientation.

Director of the Office of LGBTQ Services at Central Michigan University Shannon Jolliff-Dettore said research surrounding sexual assault within the queer community is not often done, making the information very significant.

“The information is important so folks can see the need for resources focusing on same-gender sexual assault and intimate partner violence,” she said. “We need to know this information so we can begin work on prevention and also resources for survivors of SA or IPV.”

The survey found bisexual women, which comprised 61 percent of the surveyed population, report a higher prevalence of rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner compared to both lesbians, 44 percent, and heterosexual women, 35 percent.

“It is not an unknown fact that SA and IPV happens across all sexual orientations,” Jolliff-Dettore said. “The study provides the numbers behind that knowledge so there is a better understanding of the need for resources.”

Of the bisexual women who experienced IPV, approximately 90 percent reported having only male perpetrators, while two-thirds of lesbians reported having only female perpetrators of IPV.

Director of Sexual Aggression Services Stephen Thompson said although this type of information is not new, the crime is common everywhere and needs to be addressed.

“This is an extremely under-reported crime to begin with,” he said. “When it occurs in the LGBTQ community, it is less likely to be reported due to a variety of reasons.”

The data presented does not indicate whether violence occurs more often in same-sex or opposite sex couples. Rather, the data shows the prevalence of lifetime victimization of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking of respondents who self-identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual and describes violence experienced with both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

“We know that violence affects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “While intervening and providing services are important, prevention is equally critical.”

According to the CDC’s 2012 Sexual Violence data, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.

“Across all sexual orientations, we need to raise awareness around prevention and resources for individuals who are survivors of SA and IPV,” Joliff-Dettore said.

In the year prior to the survey, nearly one in 20 women and men experienced sexual violence other than rape.

Since entering college, 19 percent of undergraduate women experienced attempted or completed sexual assault.

“The numbers are significant and show a need for awareness education,” Thompson said. “People need to be aware that this is a problem that affects all.”

More than 20 sexual assault cases occur on campuses each week, Central Michigan Life previously reported. However, the national sexual report rate is as low as five in 100.

Thompson said 85 percent of sexual assault victims are assaulted by someone they know.

In order to lower these occurrences, more education needs to be provided to address why people act out aggressively. By doing that, more awareness will be created about the issue of sexual aggression and bystander behavior, Thompson said.


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