SAPA works to be more inclusive of LGBTQ survivors

Autumn Gairaud said same-sex sexual assault and domestic violence isn’t always viewed as "real."

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reported a sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds, and Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates is working to educate students abut how sexual assault and domestic violence isn’t a one-gender, one-sexuality occurrence.

To reach Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates' 24-hour hotlines, call (989) 774-CALL.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported that compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women, 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.

SAPA provides support services to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and stalking and harassment, including a 24/7 hour hotline and online chat during the school year.

“The more you hear survivor stories, the more you hear about how they’re impacted or the ways they coped with it, or didn’t. It’s hard to say even a few universal ways people are impacted because there aren’t any,” said Gairaud, a Waterford junior and member of the organization.

SAPA members receive a minimum of 50 hours of training in the fall, including Safe Zone training. This year SAPA members received 52 hours of training. During spring 2016, SAPA members received an additional eight hours of training. This does not include 15 hours per semester of additional required hours in programming, outreach and continued education.

Director of Sexual Aggression Services Brooke Oliver-Hempenstall said when she looks back 20 years, she realizes how mindful the advocates need to be to ensure they don't assume it’s always men assaulting women, but an entire spectrum of both perpetrators and survivors exists.

“When we’re showing the full range of trauma, it can happen to anyone, no matter the age range, gender, sexuality or sexual identity,” she said. “I think when we’re open to all of that, I hope we’re saying we are open to anyone who needs help or support. We recognize and understand that these traumas don’t just happen to one type of person by one type of person.”

St. Clair Shores junior and SAPA member Kathleen TrombIey said because a man assaulting a woman is often the main focus of education and awareness, the LGBTQ community's side of relationships and sexual aggression is lost.

“I feel like because they’re an underrepresented group of people, a lot of times they feel like their voices aren’t heard," Trombley said. "I want to make sure LGBTQ survivors know their voices are heard."