In Broward in 2006, a gay man, Camilo (not his real name), was sexually assaulted by someone he knew through mutual friends. He found no public services. The “friends” he had in common with his assailant, took his assailant’s side, which added to his guilt for the attack. He felt no support. Camilo entered a long period of isolation and depression. His partner was supportive but the attack changed Camilo, which changed the relationship.
Camilo described his life at that time: “As a survivor of sexual assault, I needed to talk to someone, to grieve, to regain trust. It’s very difficult to trust again when your trust has been betrayed like that.”
Camilo was fortunate. He had access to a private therapist and was able to rebuild his life. He is no longer a victim; he has become a survivor.
Sexual violence includes sexual assault and intimate partner violence. In January 2013, the CDC released data concerning lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). Rates of sexual violence were much higher among women than men and rates among gay and bi-men were higher than those of heterosexual men (See Table 1). Bi-sexual women reported the highest rates of sexual violence of all groups. Even more troubling, 48.2 percent of bisexual female rape victims reported being raped between the ages of 11 and 17 and another 33.1 percent between the ages of 18 and 24 (81.3 percent before age 24).
This survey is the first large survey of sexual violence that asked questions about sexual orientation (9,086 female and 7,421 male respondents) and was designed to estimate sexual and intimate partner violence among the larger U.S. population.
While this survey asked about sexual orientation, its questions were based on heterosexual experience. It also failed to address transsexual issues. This survey failed to ask questions specific to sexual minorities or to groups with high rates of HIV infection:
Threatening to “out” someone as lesbian, gay, bi, or HIV positive. If non-consensual voyeurism-exhibitionism is considered a form of sexual violence, shouldn’t gay bashing and reparative therapy also be considered sexual violence?
The data in this report should be considered as a minimal estimate. People tend to underreport sexual violence and sexual orientation. If this is a minimal estimate, however, then services for LGBT sexual and intimate partner violence should be added to the LGBT political agenda. According to this report, only a small fraction of the 2,000 domestic violence shelters in the U.S. are equipped for lesbian victims, even fewer are available for gay/bi and other men who have sex with men. Camilo’s experience confirms this.
This April, Andres Santofimio and Charles Dickey of the Pride Center and Ana Ferrer and Griselda Perez from the Nancy J. Cotterman Center will be forming a professionally led support group for survivors of male on male sexual assault, Breaking the Silence: Regaining Power and Control (see box).
Andres Santofimio of the Pride Center has a message for victims: “You’re not alone. There are other guys going through this. You have the Pride Center. Take advantage of the resources. Come and talk. Don’t be alone.”
As sexual and intimate partner violence occurs at all income levels, ethnic groups, and religions, it should not surprise anyone that this violence also occurs within the LGBT community. But as people keep relearning, the only way to solve a problem is to acknowledge it, own it, and then deal with it.
To read the full report visit www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/SpecialReports.html.
The Pride Center in conjunction with the Nancy J. Cotterman Center
in April 2013A Male on Male Sexual Assault Survivors Group
Breaking the Silence: Regaining Power and ControlFor more information call the Pride Center 954-830-5103 or the Nancy J. Cotterman Center 24 Hour Rape Hotline 954-761-RAPE. All calls are confidential.
Other Broward Resources for Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence
Women in Distress (954-761-1133)
Mindy Jones, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida