Sexual Assault: The Crime that Dare Not Speak its Name.
One of the downsides of being part of an unprotected minority; is the possibility that few will care when you are a victim of crime. For quite some time, there have been stories of date rape within the LGBTIQ community. That is not to say that this crime is unique to this particular community. We know that sexual violence is generally on the rise. The problem is really about vulnerability and the response of the authorities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA has released data that shows increased vulnerability to date rape within the LGBTIQ community. It is not that heterosexual people are not subject to this type of assault (women in particular are victimized regularly); just that if you are part of the LGBTIQ community the chances of being attacked are on the rise. It is yet another dimension of our vulnerability.
Stereotypes that Do Not Help at All
If we are looking to understand why the public is sometimes ambivalent towards the plight of LGBTIQ people, we need look no further than the inherent prejudices that we still have to contend with. Many people are utterly convinced that LGBTIQ people do nothing but have sex with multiple partners. We have been accused of leading an irresponsible one-night stand lifestyle that endangers the rest of the population in terms of increasing sexually transmitted diseases.
When we want to report that we are victims of sexual assault, there is an implicit level of disbelief. After all we are supposed to be over-sexed: why do we complain so much when we get it? Of course the people in charge never say it in quite those stark terms. Instead there are subtle hints about why we need to be a bit more careful. The translation is basically that: “you need to grow up and act more responsible”. Women face the same nonsense when they try to report rape incidents.
Sometimes it is the Intimate Partners
Shockingly; the people that we love most are the ones who may one day turn on us and hurt us very badly. According to some statistics that were released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP); about 10% of LGBTIQ people who have ever experienced violence from an intimate partner, also experience sexual assault from the very same people. The statistics are even worse if you are a woman or transgender within the LGBTIQ community. Existing literature suggests that nearly 50% of people within these two categories will experience sexual violence at least once in their life.
As if we did not enough stigma and social exclusion; the menacing spectacle of sexual assault inserts itself into our problems. That is not even considering the ever-existing threat of hate crime. It is one of the ironies of homophobia that it is the closeted ones who are most likely to engage in gay bashing. They do not only hate themselves; but must also hate the wider community as well. Hitting out at other members of the LGBTIQ community is a form of validation for the closet case. To them; committing homophobic violence shows that they are at least “normal” in their prejudices.
Hypersexualized and Stigmatized Relationships
What does it really mean to be in a relationship for an LGBTIQ person? Does it mean servicing someone else’s sexual fantasies without any consideration for your own needs? Society has consistently and systematically devalued the lives of sexual minorities. That goes to the extent of our human relationships. It then becomes impossible for LGBTIQ people to deserve better. Our relationships are characterized as being transient, harmful to us and dangerous to society as a whole. It then becomes a tough ask to find some level of justice when you are a victim of sexual assault.
Likewise; there is a conflict within the LGBTIQ community as to how we are to treat those amongst us who are deviants in the true sense of the world. How do you report a gay rapist, for example? What are the implications of that reporting and how do the law enforcement agencies respond? These are very complex issues with so many underlying dynamics which ultimately reduce social justice for LGBTIQ people.
The Conspiracy of Silence
Unfortunately; our silence on these matters has meant that criminals and deviants are allowed to continue with their nefarious misdeeds. Nobody is going to challenge the social injustice that we face, unless we ourselves start taking control of the steering wheel. The suffering that we face as a result of sexual violence is individualized and therefore does not inspire the requisite strategic response that has traditionally been used to combat societal problems such as armed robbery.
The statistics are certainly alarming enough: between 40% and 60% of all women within the LGBTIQ community are bound to face at least once incident of physical violence, rape and stalking by an intimate partner. Up to 37% of men within this community will experience similar aggression. The statistics of successful prosecutions are hidden far away from public view. Sometimes it appears that nobody is worried if LGBTIQ people become victims of crime. The implicit message is that the community is deserving of such treatment.
Sexual Assault: Why all the violence?
Date Rape? Some of the reasons are fairly obvious while others are much subtler. For example; if you have a community that is under siege, there is bound to be some communal stress. To be outed as a gay person is one of the most difficult experiences for anyone. This is true even where the person lives in a so called developed country. We in developed countries have now moved away from the hard bigotry because it sounds so harsh, especially when contrasted against the imagery of civilized tolerance that we want to project to the rest of the world.
Instead we have opted for the soft bigotry of low expectations. LGBTIQ people are treated as past, present or future victims. They are rendered powerless by societal structures that make them invisible. The paradigm of tolerance does little to advance their cause in a meaningful way. Instead they end up creating power centers for those who want to become moral entrepreneurs in the politics of LGBTIQ rights. As you are tolerated, you are expected not to ask for more than the bare minimum.
It is also important to emphasize the fact that the LGBTIQ community is just like any other. There are misfits and troublemakers. Therefore; it is expected that a few bad eggs will make the cut. The real dilemma is how we can deal with this threat of violence. The fact that the victims are largely silent also reduces the possibilities of challenging those who are trampling on our rights. Suffering in silence has never won us any rights. Indeed, many of the things that we have achieved as a community are directly linked to a certain level of militancy and persistent advocacy.
Available Support Networks
The first thing that you need to do when you are sexually assaulted is to get out of danger. That might mean getting away from your attacker and getting to the nearest clinic. There you could get checked out and given some emergency treatment that will reduce the risk of long term problems. For example; the post-exposure treatment (PEP) might reduce the likelihood that you acquire HIV/AID.
The other very important step involves getting even; not in the crude terms of getting revenge but rather ensuring that you get justice. That means reporting the incident and following through until they do something about it. When LGBTIQ people fail to report sexual assaults, they are effectively opening themselves up to constant harassment with no consequence. I know that the law enforcement agencies can be unhelpful, but we need to keep trying until they take notice of us.
Some Precautions are in Order
As an individual: I try to take some preventative and pre-emptive measures. They are not foolproof but might end up saving your life. First of all, I always try to meet in public places for many dates before anyone can come to my home. When I go out to nightclubs, I prefer to go in a posy so that we can look out for one another. I even went as far as taking some self-defensive courses in order to ensure that I could look after myself if anyone wanted to jump me.
The issue of nasty neighborhoods can be tricky because even the poshest towns have their vagabonds. Instead I just try to walk in well-lit areas. When I know that this is a rather dicey area, I stir clear. Of course despite all these precautions, I am not guaranteed complete safety. I belong in a group of people who are likely to experience violence at least once in their lifetime. That is a sobering thought but at least I know that I tried to avoid being victimized. Even when I fall victim, I will do my best to ensure that the bastard or bastardess who harmed me is well behind bars at the end of the day.