About will be supporting Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with a focus on how it pertains to the LGBTQIA community
(HOUSTON) — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a topic that is neither new nor relevant, and one to which that many in the LGBTQIA community are not strangers. In fact, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a person is sexually assaulted every 8 seconds in America. Those statistics are startlingly high. More shocking is that according the Center for Disease Control (CDC), queer people often are sexually assailed at similar or higher rates than heterosexual and cis-gender people.
What’s frightening about these numbers is that they are based solely on the information available. They’re nothing more than estimations. Much of RAINN’s information comes from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which selects 150,000 Americans each year and gathers information based on that group. Unfortunately, there is a large and unaccounted for number of sexual assault victims who do not come forward—a fact that should not be used to place blame upon the victims. While there are several potential reasons for each individual’s decision not to come forward (fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed, fear of being fired, and many more), the one thing that is certain is that the longer that this sort of behavior continues to be perpetuated by sexual assailants and rapists, the longer more people will be victimized and that fear will perpetuate, as well.
Recently, America has seen in influx in the publicity of survivors who have stepped forward. With well-covered movements such as #MeToo (founded over ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke) and #TimesUp, to celebrities such as Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Rapp, Oprah Winfrey and many more that have stepped forward to share their stories and to talk about their experiences in the hopes to encourage and empower other people (namely women, people of color, and LGBTQIA folks) to step forward.
While this could have come at a better time (or maybe I should say that people could have been this tuned into the fact that sexual assault is prevalent sooner), it is nonetheless a remark to the bravery of women, the LGTBQIA community (with an emphasis on the trans community), people of color, and all others who are now stepping out and firing back. Men in power, from Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. and countless in between are being brought to their knees, which should be scaring men of lesser recognition all over the world. Because, famous or not, their time is coming, too. Unfortunately, RAINN also reports that most sexual assailants and rapists in the nation will not be imprisoned or be held accountable for their crimes. This is no surprise, considering that we currently live in a country run by a sexual predator (yes, Donald Trump is just as guilty).
But through these movements, through the media, and through solidarity for one another, we can begin to hold as many of these men accountable as possible. In fact, it wasn’t until just recently that I myself was comfortable discussing the story of the man who raped me when I was 19-years-old in my Less Than Butterflies column. It’s a terrifying feeling thinking that no one will believe you. It’s a terrifying feeling to wonder if the person will retaliate or what they’ll tell your loved ones about you. And no one can blame the victims who choose not to share their stories with the world. With that said, however, we—especially in the LGBTQIA community—must continue to be resilient, supportive, and engaged with our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary siblings. Because until we get there, until there comes a time when there is no tolerance for sexual assault and when victims do not feel they have to hide in the shadows, no one is safe.
And of many other things, the LGBTQIA community should be able to rely on each and every member for safety.
This month, About Magazine will be running a series of stories from victims of sexual assault, as well as informative articles about the prevalence of sexual assault, why the LGBTQIA community is so desensitized to it, why among gay men the lines seem to be more blurred (hint: they’re not and shouldn’t be), and much more. And this won’t be a one-off sort of thing. As long as there is sexual assault happening around the world, we will continue to talk about it, because time really is up for the disgusting men of the world who have led so many of us to a place where we can say (or where we’re too afraid to say), “Yeah. Me, too.”
Anthony Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief
You can donate to RAINN and learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month here.