Are We Still Forgetting Same-Sex Violence too?
We stand for women's safety from men, but where is the same-sex discussion?
Stop ignoring this problem too.
That year (2014) I spent Valentine’s Day on my couch, sick and alone. That didn’t bother me, but missing out on the flash-mob for One Billion Rising really did. Women had transformed V-Day into a day of power. It was our turn to take control, to say no and I here I was, all alone, unable to add my voice to those who were rising.
As I indulged in trash TV, ice cream, and self-pity, I was struck. All these voices calling out to end violence against women and likely very few of them are thinking of female-on-female sexual assault or domestic violence too?
Last year, I probably wouldn’t have thought of it either. Gay women have a stereotype of being safe; why not, after all, they are women too, shouldn't they be as concerned about as I? I was taught that I could drop my shield as I was as I moved around in the lesbian community. I had never been put in a position of true powerlessness in any lesbian encounter I had until last spring.
It took a few weeks after my assault to realize that there was a name for what had happened to me, date rape. It hadn’t occurred to me until I was telling a friend the story. As the phrases “too drunk,” “couldn’t stop her,” “had to yell ‘no’ several times and push her off of me,” came out of my mouth I knew what I was saying, but I did not really understand it, even then. The images we have about lesbians do not include ones who violate you.
It took a little bit for me to sober up enough to be able to yell and get her to stop. And then I felt so stupid. Stupid and angry. Worse, I still had to sleep there because I had nowhere else to go.
In no heterosexual context would I be sleeping over on a first date just because I didn’t feel like driving home, but with another woman, another gay woman at that, it felt fine. Except that it wasn’t. I had betrayed everything I knew about keeping myself safe only because I was with a woman and in return, she violated my body.
Mine isn’t the only story. Marie* was in a relationship for over a year with one woman, Dominique*. Shortly after they began dating, Dominique became controlling and abusive. Marie felt like she was trapped, unable to escape, as night after night she was forced to have sex with her “partner.”
Her story broke my heart as she talked about the look in Dominique's eyes, how if she wanted something, Marie had to perform no matter how much pain she was in, how now Marie could not participate in sexual activities, even with a trusted partner. She lost relationships over her struggle.
It took Marie a year after the relationship ended before she could talk about it out loud and even longer to have the courage to call it rape.
Now I add my voice to One Billion Rising. The silence must end.
Originally written in 2014. Just as pertinent today.
*Names have been changed
Your Experience with Same-Sex Violence and Assault
What, if any, has your experience regarding same-sex violence and assault been?
"As a community, LGBTQ people face higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization, which put us at greater risk for sexual assault. We also face higher rates of hate-motivated violence, which can often take the form of sexual assault.
Moreover, the ways in which society both hypersexualizes LGBTQ people and stigmatizes our relationships can lead to intimate partner violence that stems from internalized homophobia and shame."— Human Rights Campaign
What DO the statistics say?
The statistics show it, domestic violence is as prevalent in same-sex relationships as in opposite sex ones. This includes sexual violence.
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found for LGB people:
- 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women
- 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men
- 46 percent of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17 percent of heterosexual women and 13 percent of lesbians
- 22 percent of bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner, compared to 9 percent of heterosexual women
- 40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of heterosexual men
It’s hard to find statistics directly regarding same-sex assault by a stranger. I tried. I have a friend who has been assaulted twice by unknown women. Who knew? Only those who have been through it. Radio silence does nothing to help anybody.
© 2014 Molly O'Hara