Sexual Violence against Bisexual People

April 23rd, 2017

Content Warning(s): LGBTQ+, Rape, Assault, Abuse, Stalking

Day twenty-three! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

In 2010, the CDC completed a survey of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual populations called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). It isn't quite a surprise to read the survey's conclusion that overall percentages of sexual violence of some kind in GLB people are higher than heterosexual people - the community is a well-known oppressed minority. But I was shocked to find out that the rates for bisexuals, particularly bisexual women, were the highest of all. (The survey didn't include transgender populations, but unfortunately those statistics are relatively widespread: they experience the highest rate of assault, abuse, and violence of any LGBTQ+ category.)

About 1 in 5 bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner. About half of bisexual women have been raped in their lifetime. Bisexual women are twice as likely to be the target of stalking harassment in which they feared someone close to them would be harmed or killed. About half of bisexual women were concerned for their safety and experienced at least one symptom of PTSD following intimate partner violence.

The first time I read these statistics after I was raped, I remember nodding and saying, "Makes sense." After all, I've been raped, stalked and in fear, and experienced PTSD. But when I had that thought, I also thought about how it shouldn't have just made sense to me. What about being a bisexual woman correlates to the inevitability that I'd experience this in some capacity in my lifetime? The gap in sexual satisfaction even between lesbians and bisexuals? The myth that being bisexual makes one less faithful to one's partner? The number of threesomes I've been not-so-jokingly invited to once a heterosexual couple found out I'm bisexual, even though I have no interest in the couple OR the situation? The fact that we're under the radar if we're in heterosexual relationships but obviously lesbians if we're in same-sex ones? The fact that women use the term "girlfriend" to refer to female friends and don't take it as seriously if we've had both boyfriends and girlfriends as romantic partners? What about when heterosexual partners fetishize previous same-sex relationships or attempt to "turn" bisexuals into straight women? What about when a bisexual woman leaves a heterosexual relationship and the man, rather than allowing the relationship to end organically, jumps to telling himself and his friends, "She was just a lesbian anyway," belittling the entire scope of our sexuality?

The above list are ALL things that I've personally experienced. It looks like a lot of disrespect and misunderstanding from people who are not bisexual. It's difficult enough navigating one's sexuality through these misconceptions, let alone experiencing rape or intimate partner violence. For example, a man raping me was "teaching me a lesson." If a woman had raped me, it wouldn't have been "real" because of the myth that women can't rape other women. If the rape had occurred outside of a committed relationship that I was in, it would have been my "lascivious, greedy nature as a bisexual to want more than one partner." If my sexual rights don't exist, then neither does my sexual pain. Hence, the (albeit lighthearted) trope that bisexuals are invisible.

It makes sense as to why bisexual women experience so much sexual violence, but it's not fair. The best way to dispel the myths is not to tell them and not let your friends tell them. Let us share the pain of our particular orientation and give us as much support as you can, particularly if you're LGTQ+.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about survivors who don't identify as female.


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