APA Writing AssignmentDeepashtha19
Addressing Sexual and Relationship Violence in the LGBT Community Using a Bystander
Framework Sharyn J. Potter, PhD, MPH, Kim Fountain, PhD, and Jane G. Stapleton, MA
Sexual and relationship violence are two major public health issues that affect an alarming number of undergraduate students. As a result, many colleges and universities have protocols to serve victims of these forms of violence. Despite federal legislation stating that all students should have equitable experiences, current protocols and programs focus primarily on heterosexual students. College student victims of sexual and relationship violence who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can face particular challenges, including disclosure of their sexual and gender orientations, and revictimization when seeking services. In recent years an increasing number of campuses have adopted bystander prevention strategies to address sexual and relationship violence. These strategies seek to engage community members in the prevention of sexual and relationship violence by training them to identify and safely intervene in situations where sexual or relationship violence is about to occur, is occurring, or has occurred. In this article we review published bystander prevention strategies that focus on preventing sexual and relationship violence in the campus community, and discuss how bystander strategies are addressing or can address relationship and sexual violence in the LGBT community. (HARV REV PSYCHIATRY 2012;20:201–208.)
Keywords: bisexual. bystander prevention strategies, college, gay, lesbian, relationship and sexual violence, transgender
From the Department of Sociology (Dr. Potter) and Women’s Stud- ies Program (Dr. Fountain and Ms. Stapleton), University of New Hampshire.
Original manuscript received 18 August 2011; revised manuscript received 17 December 2011, accepted for publication subject to re- vision 17 January 2012; revised manuscript received 9 February 2012.
Correspondence: Sharyn J. Potter, PhD, MPH, Department of Sociol- ogy, University of New Hampshire, 20 Academic Way, Durham, NH 03824. Correspondence: [email protected]
© 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Sexual assault of women is the most common violent crime committed on college campuses today; one in four college women experiences completed or attempted rape during their college years.1 The majority of these assaults are perpetrated by the victim’s acquaintances (e.g., classmates, residence hall neighbors, dates) or intimate partners.1−3 College women are at higher risk for sexual assault than peers who are not in college.4 Studies show that college men also report unwanted sexual experiences.5,6 Recent research indicates that 25% of women and 14% of men will experience relationship violence over the course of their lifetimes.7 Exposure to sexual and relationship violence∗ is a key public health issue and is associated with a multiplicity of negative outcomes, including increased substance use, depressive symptoms, health-risk behaviors, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder among various samples of survivors.∗,9−13
*We use the term sexual violence to refer to a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient, including, but not limited to, the following: derogatory or insulting remarks about physical appearance; persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient; unwanted touching; and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration. These behaviors could be initiated by someone either known or unknown to the recipient, including someone in an existing relationship with the recipient. We use the term relationship violence to refer to a range of behaviors experienced in the con- text of any type of intimate relationship or friendship. These behaviors include use of physical force or threats of force against a partner, such as slapping, punching, throwing objects, threatening with weapons, or threatening any kind of physical harm. It can also include extreme emotional abuse such as intimidation, blaming, putting down, making fun of, and name calling.
∗Although the terms victim and survivor are often used interchangeably,7 in the legal definition the term victim rather than survivor is used to describe a person following an assault.8
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The extent to which campuses are working to prevent these problems varies widely.4 Most efforts are aimed at heterosexual women—statistically, the most highly represented group. But this population is not the only one for which sexual and relationship violence is an issue. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students represent a marginalized population at the same14 or at higher risk for sexual and relationship violence15−18 as their heterosexual peers. Yet the 5%–10% of undergraduate student populations who identify as LGBT19,20 are signif- icantly underserved by colleges’ prevention strategies for sexual and relationship violence.
Campus efforts to combat such violence have demon- strated mixed results regarding effectiveness, particularly over time.21 Some prevention strategies have been viewed as directly or indirectly victim blaming.22 Others have focused too much on individuals or small groups (such as athletes or fraternity members), or on criminal justice policies rather than wider social change.23,24 Some campuses have therefore begun to utilize a bystander approach to engage the broader campus community—in particular, bystanders—in efforts to reduce sexual and relationship violence on campus. In this article we examine the extent to which the published by- stander prevention strategies have addressed sexual and re- lationship violence in the LGBT community, and we provide suggestions to improve bystander-intervention frameworks.
SEXUAL AND RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE EXPERIENCED BY LGBT COLLEGE STUDENTS
Campus Climate for Students Who Identify as LGBT
Sociocultural bias against LGBT people and cultures, known as heterosexism and homophobia, can frame LGBT identi- ties as sinful, sick, perverted, and a threat to the traditional family.25−27 When heterosexuality is posited as the norm, acts of violence at every level of society perpetrated against LGBT people are justified or explained through reference to such negative constructions.28 The climate of LGBT intol- erance on college campuses has been well documented by researchers.29−34 For LGBT students, college campuses are often unwelcoming, unsafe environments, where they expe- rience harassment,29−31 isolation, ostracization,32 and phys- ical violence.33 LGBT students can face discrimination or harassment from their peers (e.g., roommates, classmates, teammates) and other members of the campus community, including the professional staff (e.g., coaches, hall directors, professors, administrators, campus safety, health services staff). Harassment and discrimination from campus com- munity members can not only make LGBT students feel unwelcome but also reduce their self-esteem and prevent them from seeking help from campus professionals.32,33,35
Perpetrators most commonly use two tactics to control their victims: threatening to or actually revealing the victim’s sex- uality to others (“outing” the victim), or isolating the victim. For many lesbians who report abuse, the abuse occurs dur- ing their first relationship, when they are most vulnerable to batterers who have the capacity to control or manipulate information.36 For students the impact of outing may be dev- astating and may occur on several different levels. Many stu- dents experiment with their sexuality or come out in college. They may not tell their parents for any number of reasons, including being cut off from financial and emotional support, losing parental housing during school breaks, or losing jobs that might be their only form of support.37−40 The college environment can offer students the opportunity to explore same-sex relationships,36 but many such first relationships are at high risk for relationship violence because the victims want both to confirm their sense of self and sexual identity, and to “fit in.” The victims may also lack confidence in what behaviors are acceptable in intimate same-sex relationships and may have no or minimal contact with LGBT friend- ship/community networks, within which they could air their concerns. The desire to fit in leaves victims vulnerable be- cause they may take risks, explain away the violence, or lack the vocabulary or life skills to identify, name, and act on the violence. For those who might possess such skills and sup- port and who might even be out, the embarrassment behind feeling that they somehow are not expressing their sexual or gender identities “correctly” contributes to their silence around relationship violence and sexual assaults. These fac- tors and the perpetrators’ awareness of them increase the likelihood of relationship violence.41
Isolation—one of the most effective and common tactics that batterers resort to in heterosexual relationships42—is often easy to use against LGBT victims because they may not be open about their sexuality and are therefore socially isolated. Alternatively, they may have come out but been rejected by their social groups or families. A variation on this theme is for batterers to limit the circle of people who are allowed to know about the relationship, as the batterer claims that they are not “out.”41
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Barriers to Seeking Help and Reporting
The consequences and implications of sexual and relation- ship violence in LGBT communities are both similar to, and different from, those of the heterosexual community. Both heterosexual and LGBT victims of sexual and relationship violence who seek help must disclose the crime. Students who identify as LGBT, however, may feel uncomfortable do- ing so; the disclosure of the crime may also involve the dis- closure of their sexual identities or gender orientations. For students who are not out, their perceived need to hide their sexual identities can be a barrier to seeking services. Peo- ple who are just coming out or who are not accustomed to talking about their sexual orientations may find the lan- guage required to discuss their experiences inaccessible.43 Indeed, the language of sexual and relationship violence tends to be extraordinarily gendered; female victims are “attacked” or “abused” by male perpetrators, but fewer ex- pressions are available to describe same-sex assaults. This linguistic shortfall reflects common thinking; for instance, some people cannot fathom or may explicitly deny that a man can sexually assault another man. Even those who are accustomed to speaking about same-sex situations on a va- riety of levels may find it difficult to cross the linguistic gap after a traumatic event. It can be all the more difficult for someone who has not yet developed the confidence, let alone the language related to his or her LGBT identity, to make a report.
Male victims of sexual and relationship violence are often blamed for not stopping an attack—which makes it difficult for young men to speak of sexual or relationship violence perpetrated by other men. Reporting requires them not only to reveal very personal information but to frame acts of vio- lence in a manner that makes sense in heterosexist culture, in which victims are presumed to be heterosexual women. Indeed, the current reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act faces opposition—for the first time—in large part due to the addition of provisions for services address- ing the LGBT communities. A gay man just coming to terms with his sexuality may find it overwhelming to negotiate a linguistic terrain that clearly marks him as gay and as a victim of sexual assault.
LGBT individuals who identify as members of a racial or ethnic minority can face additional burdens in facing stereo- types of LGBT people as white and from Western cultures when seeking help.44,45 Similarly, they face accusations of being traitors to their racial or cultural identities for taking on the LGBT identity.
Although all victims may face retribution from their friends for seeking help or reporting the crime, on many campuses the LGBT communities are small and insulated, and the fear of retribution can be compounded. The actual or perceived homophobia on college campuses may prevent LGBT undergraduate victims of sexual and relationship violence from seeking help.
As with other marginalized groups, LGBT victims may choose not to report violence, thereby avoiding further stigmatization of the LGBT community.46,47 Victims may be concerned that the identification and labeling of same-sex perpetrators will further compromise the perception of relationships that already involve negative stereotyping.48 As members of marginalized communities, LGBT individuals—for fear of discrimination or harassment—often have serious reservations about accessing authority figures or disclosing their sexuality.49 Many LGBT youth attempt to access services or safety nets such as religious figures, school counselors, or the police, only to be told that their sexuality —not the actual perpetration of the violence—is the issue. For some victims the inability to obtain support from the system only underscores their isolation and vulnerability.47
Services for LGBT and heterosexual victims of relationship and sexual violence commonly take the form of one-on- one counseling, advocacy efforts, and education. On college cam- puses, collaborations with medical facilities, law enforcement, and campus judicial boards may be part of these services. In the United States, services for victims of sexual and relationship violence are rarely fully inclusive, and the funding of services to meet the needs of LGBT victims, in particular, is typically inadequate.47 At the present time lesbian victims of relationship violence have fewer options than heterosexual victims for accessing safe and effective services.49 Other studies have shown that some crisis staff view same-sex relationship violence as less harmful than heterosexual violence—a result of the stereotypes that men can defend themselves and women are not violent.50 Because LGBT victims are often unwilling to report violence, statistical data reflect lower rates of incidence than would otherwise be the case, leading to minimal funding for direct services, advocacy, and prevention for LGBT communities. To be most responsive and effective, direct services, advocacy, and prevention efforts must proactively respond to the range of vulnerabilities that offenders exploit.51,52
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USING BYSTANDER PROGRAMS TO ADDRESS SEXUAL AND RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE IN THE LGBT COMMUNITY
In the social psychology literature, bystanders are defined as individuals who witness criminal acts, emergency situations, or instances where community norms are violated.53−55 A bystander’s action or lack of action can worsen, maintain, or improve the situation. Using research on the effectiveness of prevention efforts, scholars and practitioners have tried to engage bystanders as allies in pre- venting sexual and relationship violence. Further impetus for engaging bystanders comes from research on perpetrator characteristics (e.g., hostility toward women, victimization experiences)56 and situational factors, such as community norms or community tolerance toward sexual and relationship violence that can facilitate or inhibit perpetrator behaviors;57−60 indeed, violence occurs when there are motivated perpetrators, vulnerable potential victims, and the absence of community members who can or will intervene.61 Attention to both perpetrator behavior and community responsibility can facilitate effective community-level prevention efforts. Bystander models focus on teaching bystanders active, helpful behaviors to safely intervene in situations that involve sexual and relationship violence.62
Although the use of bystander prevention strategies on college campuses is growing, the majority of bystander programs have not been formally evaluated, largely as a result of limited funding and administrative time.63,64 Five bystander programs for preventing sexual violence, as well as one social-marketing campaign, have had evaluations published in the peer-reviewed literature.65 The programs, each of which utilizes a different approach, are currently in place on college campuses in the United States and Canada. The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model developed by Katz in 1993 is one of the first violence prevention programs using a bystander framework.66 The MVP pro- gram, in addition to being used on college campuses, is used with sports teams and with members of the U.S. military. The program utilizes sports metaphors (e.g., a playbook) to engage men in preventing violence against women.66 Since its inception, the program has looked at the harassment of gays and lesbians, and also at other heterosexist behaviors. The occurrence of domestic violence and sexual assault in same-sex couples is addressed, but the scenarios in the play- book do not yet deal with bystander intervention when the abuse is within LGBT relationships themselves —but only when heterosexuals are abusing, harassing, or talking in degrading ways about LGBT people (Jackson Katz, personal communication).
The InterACT Sexual Assault Prevention Program is an interactive skill-building program that seeks to increase participants’ knowledge on the importance and effec- tiveness of bystander interventions in preventing sexual
assault.67 While relationship and sexual violence within the LGBT community is not a main focus, this phenomenon is addressed during the program’s facilitated-discussion component. InterACT has a separate program that is used to address homophobia; its main focus is violence and bullying aimed at LGBT people by heterosexuals, rather than violence within the LGBT community (Marc Rich and Courtney Ahrens, personal communication).
The Men’s Project68 incorporates discussion of bystander techniques and utilizes a social-norms model of change,69,70 where peers’ perceptions of their peers’ attitudes and actions are used to influence behavioral change. At the present time this program does not address relationship and sexual vio- lence in the LGBT community (Christine Gidycz, personal communication). The Men’s Program,71 a bystander program that utilizes a film discussing a male-on-male rape as its focal point, does not address sexual and relationship violence in same-sex relationships (John Foubert, personal communication).
The Bringing in the BystanderTM in-person prevention program trains participants to safely intervene when sexual assault or relationship abuse is about to occur, is occurring, or has occurred.62 The facilitator guide for this program in- structs peer facilitators to explain that perpetrators and vic- tims of sexual and relationship violence are not restricted to particular sexual identities, relationships, or socioeconomic backgrounds. “Its perpetrators and victims may be women or men, young or old, gay, lesbian, straight or bisexual. Re- lationship abuse affects people of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational levels.”72
Most of the educational strategies for preventing sexual and relationship violence are in the form of in-person pre- vention programs, and the Know Your PowerTM Bystander Social Marketing Campaign (developed in 2004) utilizes the main tenets of the Bringing in the Bystander in-person prevention program, in particular. The model of a social- marketing campaign engages bystander behaviors when sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking is occur- ring, is about to occur, and has occurred. The campaign, ad- ministered campus-wide for a six-week period, utilizes 11' x 17' posters, bookmarks, table tents, full-side bus wraps, computer pop-up screens, and products distributed with the campaign logo.73 Studies have shown that participants who have been exposed to, and who identified with, the campaign images (compared to participants who report not identifying with the images) were more likely both to believe that they had a role to play in reducing sexual and relationship violence and to have engaged in bystander behaviors.73−75
During the running of a campaign, the images that ad- dress relationship and sexual violence in the heterosexual community (16 images) and the LGBT community (4 images) are displayed together; the goal is to recognize that sexual and relationship violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships and to engage all community members to
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acknowledge and safely intervene in these situations. The first LGBT image, developed in 2006, has two scenes. In the first scene two friends realize that another friend is lying about the source of the bruises on his arms. The friends realize that the bruising is not the result of a skateboard- ing accident but has been inflicted by the victim’s abusive boyfriend. In the next scene one friend offers to take the victim to the campus rape crisis center. In the second LGBT image, developed in 2009, there are three scenes that il- lustrate bystanders supporting their friends after the oc- currence of a sexual assault. The first two scenes highlight female victims. In the third scene a male victim discloses that he has been sexually assaulted. His male friend tells him that he believes him. In the third LGBT image, devel- oped in 2011, a college party scene is taking place; a female is being emotionally abusive to her girlfriend. In the image the bystanders identify and label the abuse and devise a strategy to safely intervene to help their friend. In the fourth LGBT image, also developed in 2011, two friends are sitting in a local pizza shop. One of them, a potential per- petrator, describes how he has met a man online and that he plans on “hooking up” with this man, regardless of what the man wants. The friend labels his friend’s plan as the perpetration of a sexual assault and tries to convince him to change his mind.
The nascent field of engaging community members as active bystanders to recognize and safely intervene when they anticipate or witness sexual and relationship violence provides an opportunity to prevent violence not only in the majority campus community but also in marginalized cam- pus communities (e.g., LGBTs and the disabled). Programs that engage community members as both bystanders and victims work to break down the isolation that threatens potential victims.76 Anti-LGBT stigma may prevent non- LGBT students from intervening, because of either fears of association or an inability to identify violence in a situation involving LGBT students. As college and university officials continue to develop strategies to address relationship and sexual violence in the heterosexual and non-heterosexual communities, care must be taken that all members of the larger community feel comfortable providing and seeking help.
PROPOSED DIRECTIONS FOR THE FIELD, AND CONCLUSION
Any bystander, whether LGBT or heterosexual, who en- counters an instance of sexual or relationship violence in the LGBT community should be able to recognize the vi- olence and to intervene in situations where violence is occurring—regardless of the sexual orientation of the vic- tims and perpetrators. Bystanders who intervene must also be taught, however, how to explain their empathic behavior to their peers and family members (by suggesting, for exam-
ple, that LGBT relationships can be healthy and should be respected), who may otherwise ridicule their choice to inter- vene and may even see their advocacy as going against social norms and supporting such relationships.77,78 Intervening bystanders may be required to cope with guilt by association, including potential violence directed toward them. In fact, because of the potential for violence, agencies such as the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-violence Project send outreach workers into the field in pairs (or more) as a safety measure.
As college administrators implement prevention strate- gies to reduce sexual and relationship violence in the LGBT community, it must be remembered that these two types of violence are not the same as hate violence. That said, within marginalized communities, all three types of violence can be intertwined; research indicates the prevalence of hate crime–related sexual assault among gay or bisexual men ranges from 3.0% to 19.8% of all such assaults and among lesbian or bisexual women, from 1% to 12.3%.79 Sexual and relationship violence and hate violence require unique approaches, each with its own appropriate messaging and effective interventions. While the strategies addressing the different forms of violence cannot be interchanged, neither should they be developed in isolation. Only if campus administrators address these issues will all students be free to pursue their optimal intellectual and emotional growth during their college or university years.
Although some of the bystander prevention strategies ad- dress the discrimination and bullying that is faced by LGBT students,66,67 most do not. There are a few exceptions.62,73 These findings are problematic considering the prevalence of sexual and relationship violence in the LGBT undergraduate community and the unique barriers that LGBT students face when seeking help. The use of strategies to engage members of the broader community in preventing sexual and relationship violence within and against the LGBT com- munity needs to be increased. Furthermore, when victims who identify as LGBT seek help, they often find counselors that are ill equipped to offer support;14,48,80 counselors must be trained to provide professional and culturally competent services to LGBT victims. Finally, since the LGBT community is heterogeneous, efforts need to be made to understand why some groups access support and others do not.81
Declaration of interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the article.
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