Seventy-five percent of bisexual women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes, 64 percent of transgender people have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes, and approximately one in eight lesbian women have experienced rape in their lifetime.
For more than a decade, Boston College’s Women’s Center has dedicated one week each year, Concerned About Rape Education (CARE) week, to raise awareness and teach students about issues surrounding sexual violence.
This year’s CARE week featured a program dedicated to exploring, discussing, and educating students on the sexual violence that occurs within the LGBTQ community within a safe and supportive presentation. In collaboration with the GLTBQ Leadership Council and Bystander Intervention Education, the Women’s Center brought “In the Closet: Supporting Experiences of LGBTQ Survivors” to students on April 11.
The presentation began by stating the goal of standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, understanding the realities and factors of vulnerability within the LGBTQ community, and recognizing violence here at BC, as well as feeling empowered and prepared to promote a safer community on campus.
The two presenters, Christina “TT” King, MCAS ’18, and Catherine Larrabee, MCAS ’16, then spoke, establishing and emphasizing how the language that they use is fluid and not all-encompassing. The presenters stressed how everyone’s experience and definition of their experience is completely valid and is not constrained by the definitions that they provide.
King and Larrabee then showed the audience statistics surrounding sexual violence in the LGBTQ community. King and Larrabee explained that these statistics are only the tip of the iceberg and that they were presenting in order to explore the buried and often silenced part of the problem.
Engaging with the audience through small-group discussions, King and Larrabee facilitated conversation on media’s portrayal of bisexual people as promiscuous, the role of hyper-masculinity in the gay and transgender communities, and how the two ideas contributed to the statistics of sexual violence that were displayed on the projector.
“As an LGBT person, there’s so few resources. There are lots of allied people, but there’s no center I can go to—there’s nothing there.”
-Christina “TT” King, MCAS ’18
The presentation then shifted to popular myths—including the idea that violence statistics are high because the LGBTQ community is inherently violent, that violence and coercion are normal parts of the LGBTQ community, that LGBTQ sexual violence is different from heterosexual violence, and that femininity dominates LGBTQ relationships more than masculinity.
“Another layer of when you have these myths that supposedly ‘explain away’ the sorts of horrible statistics that you’ve seen before, that’s kind of maybe an excuse, but as a result people are going to not think they need to address this problem,” Larrabee said.
Delving deeper into the factors that contribute to the statistics, King and Larrabee talked about the roles of toxic masculinity, trans/bi/homophobia, the vulnerability of “outing,” media and societal messages about LGBTQ people, as well as additional vulnerability factors in sexual violence within the LGBTQ community.
The presentation concluded with hope and a sense of empowerment as the presenters covered how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in the LGBTQ community. The presenters said that much of their message was an echo of the Bystander Intervention presentations—being aware and intentional with language use, being an “aware ally,” recognizing wrong situations, and affirming others’ identities.
“As an LGBT person, there’s so few resources,” King said. “There are lots of allied people, but there’s no center I can go to—there’s nothing there.”
This is an area, she said, where BC could improve. She referenced the Bible, saying that it tells each Christian to be kind, loving, and accepting to all peoples.
Responding to the assault of someone in the LGBTQ community includes affirming their definition of their experience, confirming the situation was not their, nor their identity’s, fault, letting them know their options, and supporting the survivors’ decisions.
While BC offers many services for survivors, there is not currently an LGBTQ center on campus. King and Larrabee, however, noted that the Women’s Center is open to everyone.
“There’s a Mexican proverb that goes, ‘They thought they could bury us, but they didn’t know we were seed,’ and … that’s something I think about a lot as an LGBT person on this campus,” King said. “There are little seeds everywhere. Next year, Bystander is hoping to implement more LGBT information to the PowerPoint, so all freshmen will see it. This event, little seeds. Some of the things GLC are doing, little seeds.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor