What About Same-Sex Rape and Sexual Assault?
In same-sex dating relationships there is a myth that sexual assault doesn’t occur in gay and lesbian relationships, but it is just that, a myth. Women are sometimes raped or sexually assaulted by their female partners or dates, and men can be assaulted by their male partners or dates. Survivors of same-sex date rape have to deal with the same issues as survivors of opposite-sex date rape, with the addition of concerns about homophobic responses from others and beliefs that same-sex partners cannot sexually assault each other. LGBT survivors of sexual assault may also fear exposing their community to negative reactions and stereotypes and not tell anyone about the rape for that reason. These additional issues make it all the more important for LGBT survivors to find support in helping them to recover and cope with the trauma of having been sexually assaulted.
The belief that rape cannot occur between same-sex partners is especially strong for women, as many people believe that rape must involve penetration. This is not true. Rape and sexual assault can occur between two women and can involve forced sexual touching, oral sex, or penetration with a finger or some other object. There is also a myth that rape by another woman is somehow less traumatic or damaging than rape by a man, or is not “real” rape, because the perpetrator and survivor may be closer in size. Neither of these myths is true. Sexual assault by a partner is often MORE traumatic than assault by a stranger, because of the levels of trust, attraction, and love involved. Women in same-sex relationships may also feel that they should be able to trust another woman and then feel doubly violated.
Just as with women in opposite sex relationships, it is important for partners to be aware of their boundaries. Know what behaviors you do and do not want to engage in, and communicate this to your partner. Be assertive when someone is crossing your boundaries and tell them to stop if they are doing something you don’t like or don’t want to happen. It’s also important to listen to your partner’s boundaries and not to push her beyond what she is willing or ready to do. If you are a survivor of same-sex sexual assault, it is important to find someone to talk to who is aware and understanding of the specific issues faced by LGBT survivors. There are many resources on campus and within the community that include counselors specifically trained on issues within the LGBT communities.
Men in same-sex relationships also face a number of myths and expectations. For many years there was a myth that a man could not rape another man, though increasingly, people understand that this is not the case. There is also a myth that men always want sex and are willing to engage in it whenever and wherever – making it especially hard for men to say “no.” But as with any other type of relationship, you have the right to decide for yourself what you are and are not willing to do and to have those decisions respected. It is essential for partners to communicate their boundaries and respect them. Men in same-sex relationships often face the most stigma and prejudice when they try to seek help after having been raped or sexually assaulted by a partner. Attitudes that gay men are promiscuous or that rape is something that only happens to women can get in the way of service providers offering safe and comfortable places for male survivors of rape to talk about their experiences and receive health care. It is therefore essential that male survivors of sexual assault find safe spaces to seek help. Luckily, there are a number of resources on campus and in the community that have specific training to help male survivors of rape and sexual assault.