Public Perceptions of Sexual Violence and the LGBT Community

Warning: This post contains sensitive content related to sexual violence.

2017 has been a year of renewed attention to sexuality, but in a different context than usual. From public protesting of sexual harassment at the Golden Globes to the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, people of all genders and sexual orientations have banded together to reclaim their sexual rights and fight against injustices in the face of political oppression. In fact, the problem of sexual violence has garnered so much attention that Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” is the Silence Breakers– those individuals that, while unique, all shared a common story of sexual harassment or abuse. We know from research that sexual violence is an especially pertinent problem for sexual and gender minority persons, who are victimized at similar or higher rates than heterosexual counterparts. But what happens when LGBT identities are brought into the conversation as perpetrators?

When Kevin Spacey was accused of harassing young men, he took the opportunity not only to apologize, but also to publicly identify as a gay man. Some outspoken LGBT figures have claimed that this admission was little more than an attempt to “hide under the rainbow” instead of taking responsibility. Now we are forced to wonder how that reflects on our communities. As identities that have historically (and inaccurately!) been stereotyped as focused on sex, LGBT identities have often been marginalized and reduced to erroneous and demeaning stereotypes. However, we can also recognize the tension between avoiding this stereotype and the fact that sexual assault is, has been, and will likely continue to be a problem within the LGBT community. Given this tension, are LGBT individuals now portrayed in an even worse light when someone accused of sexual harassment apologizes and self-identifies in the same breath?

What we can take from this movement, in the midst of all the negative and “fake” news floating around these days, is that these important issues are being discussed. People of all genders and sexual orientations are standing up for their rights, sexual and otherwise. But here at GLMA, we’re interested in linking these discussions to what we know- so we’d like to put out a call to our readers. Do you know of research linking these ideas? How might these misguided ideas of identity and behavior be inaccurately reflected in future policy and stereotype reinforcement? What are your opinions, and how can we move forward in a positive and non-re-traumatizing manner?

For anyone who needs it, resources to LGBT friendly sexual violence resources.

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