Personal Identity & Sexual Assault
Sexuality covers a wide spectrum of complex behaviors, ideas, feelings and values that vary among cultures and individual identities. Concerns related to your race, ethnicity, sexual identity, disability, citizenship status, or if your assailant is a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or partner, can cause confusion, isolation, misunderstanding or fear of further conflict.
There is no “right way” to respond after sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. Recognize that your identity, personal history and cultural values about assertiveness, aggression and sexual violence affect your understanding and recovery.
Victims that identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender react to sexual assault like any other victim and shouldn’t be segregated. Feeling self-blame, shame, fear, anger and depression is natural. But as an LGBTQ victim-survivor, you can also face additional challenges and questions, especially if the assault was perpetrated as a hate crime because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Emergency medical staff may ask questions that assume you are heterosexual, but all they need to know to evaluate your medical needs is if you had recent voluntary sexual intercourse and/or use birth control. Know that you are not required to disclose your sexual identity to anyone, including in the emergency room. LGBTQ victims are entitled to the same medical treatment and sensitivity.
LGBTQ victims may struggle with feeling:
- Reluctant to report the assault for fear of betraying your community or reinforcing social stigmas of LGBTQ violence.
- Fear for your privacy in and outside the LGBTQ community.
- Not ready to share your LGBTQ status with family or friends.
- Fearful of extra punishment for acting outside society’s prescribed gender roles.
LGBTQ Myths & Sexual Assault
These myths can only be dispelled with truth. And revealing the truth is up to all people – no matter what sexual orientation – acknowledge and speak out against sexual assault, domestic abuse, relationship violence and stalking within the LGBTQ community.
|A woman can’t rape another woman.||Although the majority of rape perpetrators are male, woman-to-woman sexual assault is possible and happens.|
|Gay men are sexually promiscuous and always ready for sex.||Sexual promiscuity is not dictated by sexual orientation. Gay men, like straight men, and all people, have the right to say no to sex any time and have that respected.|
|Bisexuals are kinky. Sexual assault for them is just rough sex that got out of hand.||Bisexuality is a sexual orientation, not a sexual practice. Bisexuals, like heterosexuals, practice a wide range of sexual behaviors. Rough sex and sexual assault are not the same thing. Ever.|
|Victims with a Disability||+|
Victims with a disability have the same right to personal freedom and safety as anyone else. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities face increased risk for sexual assault – and often by the very people they depend on for care. Disabled victims react to sexual assault like anyone else and should not be separated or discriminated because of their status.
If you know someone with a disability that is a victim of sexual assault, it’s critical to believe and support them while respecting their resolve and independence. Disabled victims have the same right to protection by law enforcement, receive or refuse a sexual assault nurse exam and right to privacy as non-disabled victims.
Victims of sexual assault with disabilities may face additional issues and inequities.
- Socialized by your perpetrator to feel like sexual abuse is “normal”, “acceptable” behavior by people who have authority or take care of you.
- Individuals with development disabilities trained to be absolutely compliant.
- Feeling powerless to speak out or seek support because the perpetrator controls your finances.
- Think no one will believe you because of your disability or because you’re stereotyped as non-sexual.
- Lack the vocabulary to explain what happened.
- Not sure if you experience sexual assault.
- Feel patronized by non-disabled people in general.
- Lack general information about sexuality, sexual abuse or personal safety strategies.
If a care provider or someone with authority forces you to submit to sexual activity, a sexual assault has occurred. Getting the care you need or having friends never requires you to engage in sexual conduct. No matter what the perpetrator’s role in your life, you have the right to file a complaint and get outside help. You always have the right to say “no.”
|Non-U.S. Citizen Victim||+|
If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and you are sexually assaulted, you have the full range of rights and options:
- Your perpetrator may be charged with a crime the same as any other case.
- Receive medical treatment for your injuries.
- Keep the health information you disclose to your medical provider confidential, including law enforcement, without your permission.
- Bring your perpetrator to trial, including your spouse or partner.
If your spouse or partner is abusing you, UConn can help you to consult with an immigration advocate or attorney to see if you can receive protection from deportation or apply for permanent residency without your spouse or partner’s sponsorship, under the Violence Against Women Act.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter what culture or ethnicity. Feeling self-blame, shame, fear, anger and depression is natural. In addition to the on- and off-campus resources to get medical, legal and counseling help, you can talk to someone who understands your cultural perspective at UConn’s African American Cultural Center.
If you are an African-American victim of sexual assault, it’s important to be aware of these additional unique cultural challenges:
- Being taught that African-American woman should bear any burden alone without complaining.
- Feel you should be silent about what happened.
- Afraid to “turn against your own” and press charges if your perpetrator was African-American.
- Afraid to perpetuate negative stereotypes about your community.
- Feel you cannot trust mental health professionals.
- Feel you cannot trust the legal system.
Getting the help you need does not mean you are disloyal. Understand that you have been violated and you have a right to get help.
In addition to the on and off campus resources to get medical, legal and counseling help, you can talk to someone who understands your cultural perspective at UConn’s African American Cultural Center.
|Latina/Latino or Hispanic Victims||+|
The terms Latina/Latino and Hispanic encompass many cultures and ethnicities, from Mexico to the Caribbean to South and Central America. But despite the broad terms, many Latino and Hispanic cultures prescribe gender roles that make recognizing and seeking support for sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking hard for women.
If you are a Latina or Hispanic victim of sexual assault, it’s important to recognize and consider cultural challenges that might prevent you from getting help:
- Feeling that submission to men is expected.
- Feel that Latino or Hispanic men don’t need to take responsibility for their sexual behavior.
- Feel that sexual assault is your problem to face, not your perpetrator’s.
- Are a first generation American or immigrant and feel that it’s not right to speak up.
- Don’t have the English fluency to effectively express yourself and get the help you need in crisis.
- Feel that you deserved it.
- Afraid you’ll shame your family or community if you were a virgin before the assault.
Know that you have the right to request a Spanish interpreter during police interviews, legal proceedings or counseling sessions. In addition to the on- and off-campus resources to get medical, legal and counseling help, you can talk to someone who understands your cultural perspective at UConn’s Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center.
No matter what cultural values and beliefs you were raised with, if you are the victim of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking, you have a right to get help.
People from Asian or of Asian ancestry are an enormously diverse and geographically vast group, ranging from the Far-East (Japan, Korea, China) to Southeast mainland and insular groups to the peoples of South Asia and Middle East regions. There is simply no such thing as a “typical Asian response” to sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. If you are Asian-American, your traditional cultural heritage has probably blended to some degree with American culture – it’s different for everyone.
Sexual assault is a crime. If you are an Asian-American victim of sexual assault, it’s important to recognize and consider cultural challenges that might prevent you from getting help:
- Feeling shame that you are not a virgin prior marriage or worried about your family’s reaction.
- Afraid to dishonor or disgrace your family.
- Feel somehow responsible for what happened to you.
- Feel that it was fate because you’re a woman.
- Afraid your confidentiality will be violated if you seek help.
- Feel that topic of sexuality is taboo.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, you have a right to seek medical, legal and counseling support no matter what your background or cultural heritage. It is possible to get confidential support. Sexual assault victims often find talking about what happened with a mental health professional who understands their unique cultural perspective is extremely helpful. You can talk to someone who understands your cultural perspective at UConn’s Asian American Cultural Center.