Creating Change in the LGBTQ Community

Amy Meldau, STSM's Advocate Counselor, attended the Creating Change conference in January, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) outreach and advocacy conference in the country. In this post, she reflects on her experiences at the conference and the needs of the LGBTQ community regarding intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

Did you know…

  • Transgender individuals are twice as likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetimes when compared to non-transgender individuals?
  • 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimatepartner during their lifetimes, compared to 35% of heterosexual women?
  • 40% of gay men and about 50% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetimes, compared to 20.8% of heterosexual men?

Experiencing sexual violence regardless of your gender or sexual orientation is a tragedy. However, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community members are more likely to be victims of this injustice.

In January, I had the privilege of attending the national Creating Change conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Creating Change is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) outreach and advocacy conference in the country, with over 3,000 professionals attending from across the country.

There is one LGBT community center here in Columbia: the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center. I represent STSM as a member of the Harriet Hancock Center’s LGBTQ Inter-Personal Violence (IPV) Prevention Task Force, which has representatives from throughout South Carolina, including Richland County and USC Law Enforcement, Sexual Assault Nurses, the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA)Sistercare, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the USC Immunology Center. These groups all come together to discuss and implement interventions to better serve LGBTQ community members who are victims of violence and assault, especially violence perpetrated by their intimate partners.

I was chosen to present at this national conference on IPV in the LGBTQ community and the significance of having a community task force to address this issue, along with two others from the task force (Tricia Phaup, Lead Social Worker from the USC Immunology Center, and Alex Karydi, Psychologist from the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice).  We also collaborated with Kirsten Keith, a grad student from Portland State University who serves in their Queer Resource Center. Together, we presented a 90-minute workshop titled, “Interpersonal Violence (IPV) Programs for LGBTQ-H Communities: Increasing Services in the Pacific Northwest & Stretching the Dollar to Build in the South.”

I presented on the prevalence and forms of sexual violence that are specific to the LGBTQ-H community. This population continues to be underserved on national and regional levels. It is my goal to spread awareness of the services that STSM can provide to survivors of sexual violence.

A recently released report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) revealed the following key statistics:

  • About 1 in 8 lesbians (13.1%), almost half of bisexual women (46.1%), and 1 out of 6 heterosexual women (17.4%) have been raped in their lifetimes. This adds up to an estimated 214,000 lesbians, 1.5 million bisexual women, and 19 million heterosexual women.
  • About half of bisexual women (48.2%) and over a quarter of heterosexual women (28.3%) were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • Almost half of bisexual men (47.4%), 4 out of 10 gay men (40.2%), and 1 out of 5 heterosexual men (20.8%) have experienced some form of sexual violence other than rape in their lifetimes. This adds up to almost 1.1 million gay men, 903,000 bisexual men, and 21.6 million heterosexual men. (NSVRC, 2011)

While the data from this report do not necessarily show that violence occurs more often in same-sex or opposite-sex couples, it does indicate a prevalence of lifetime victimization of IPV and sexual violence among the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, for many different reasons that both our IPV Task Force and STSM are working to address, these victims of sexual trauma are not seeking services in an amount that is representative of this national survey's results of victimization.

STSM realizes the importance of providing high quality services to survivors, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and I am happy to announce that STSM works hard to provide confidential services that are sensitive and supportive of survivors from the LGBTQ community. And we will also continue to seek to educate the LGBTQ community about sexual and intimate partner violence as we work to prevent violence—a step that CDC Director Dr. Tom Friedan says is “equally critical” in addressing the needs of the LGBTQ population. (NSVRC, 2011)

Left to Right: Tricia Phaup, Director Medical Case Management at USC School of Medicine’s Immunology & Infectious Disease Center; Kirsten Keith, Queer Resource Center at Portland State University; Amy Meldau, Advocate Counselor at STSM; Alex Karydi, Psychologist and LGBTQ Juvenile Coordinator at South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice