Supporting Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ Survivors of Sexual Assault

Please know that this is an introductory post and is for those wondering how they can begin to support Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ survivors. As my own awareness develops, I’ll share what I can here or on any of my other social media spaces. 

It is an unfortunate reality that sexual violence affects people of every gender identity, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity and more, with some communities affected more than others.

Statistics

For Indigenous Peoples within the LGBTQ2S+ community, according to the 2015 US Transgender Survey: Experiences of American Indian & Alaska Native Respondents:

  • 65% have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes.
  • 84% of people with disabilities have been sexually assaulted.
  • About 74% of non-binary individuals and 71% of trans-men.

Sexual violence happens at a disproportionate rate against LGBT2Q2S+ Indigenous Peoples. Some other more specific statistics can be found in a prior blog post: LGBTQ2S Native Statistics

RAINN adds the following statistics:

  • Every 73 seconds, sexual assault occurs against someone in what is now known as the United States.
  • Native Americans and/or Indigenous Peoples are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted compared to other race/ethnicities.
  • 41% of sexual assault is perpetrated by a stranger, 34% by an acquaintance and 25% by an intimate or family member.

Systemic Barriers

In addition, there are systematic barriers for Indigenous survivors. Non-Indigenous perpetrators cannot be prosecuted for rape by tribal courts, even if the crime was committed on tribal land. This would require Indigenous survivors to report off their sovereign lands, and most likely encounter discrimination and lack of cultural competence from medical professionals and law enforcement.

There is also a lack of federal and state funding for medical resources and public safety on tribal lands, which means fewer resources available to survivors. This could mean a lack of forensic exams or medical resources, such as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP, which is important for reducing exposure to HIV after being sexually violated) or a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who is a registered nurse or nurse practitioner who has completed specialized training to assist survivors of sexual assault. The lack of access to any sort of resources or support can be detrimental to the survivor’s healing process.

On a societal level, there are attitudes and disbelief against survivors of sexual violence, which inhibits their ability to report or figure out their healing process in a safe and affirmative manner. There is a HIGH need to combat these societal attitudes and disbelief, especially within many Indigenous communities to curate a space of healing for survivors and their families and friends (or secondary survivors).

Supporting Survivors

Here are some things to keep in mind when supporting a survivor.

  • BELIEVE THEM: When a survivor discloses their survivorhood, believe what they have to say. It is taking them a lot of courage to share what happened and they have a lot of faith and trust with you. Believe them. Do not ever blame them for what happened.
  • LISTEN: One of the most beautiful things to share with a survivor is your ability to listen. Provide and share an affirmative space with them. Some survivors may want to talk more than others, yet let the person know that you are there for them and are patient with them. Please do not ask for details of the assault. It is the survivor’s choice to share what and when they want to share.
  • VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS: A survivor will go through so many emotions trying to process what happened and they are figuring out what their healing process looks like. Affirming what they are going through and letting them know what they are going through is common and normal can be quite powerful. Please avoid overly positive statements though, like saying “It will get better” or telling them that they need to manage their emotions. Let the survivor feel what they want to feel and be there with and for them.
  • ALLOW THEM CHOICE: This is important. Sexual violence, or any kind of interpersonal violence, is about power and control. Choice and being able to choose, no matter what it may be, is important for a survivor as they begin to reclaim their sense of power in life after such a traumatic event.

Resources

Much of this was created from reading online resources from the following organizations and links.

If you are a survivor or know someone who is a survivor and would like some additional assistance. Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). You can also chat online with RAINN: https://www.rainn.org/

In addition, you can call StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483), which is a culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native // Indigenous Peoples within what is currently known as the United States. They are available from 7 AM – 10 PM Central Time.

Edited: December 5, 2020

Other Resources

Organizations

  • Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network // RAINN: considered to be one of the largest anti-sexual organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800.656.4673. Instagram: @rainn Twitter: @RAINN
  • Trans Lifeline: one of the few Trans-led nonprofits that connects Trans individuals to community support and resources. Peer Support & Crises Hotline US: 877.565.8860. Instagram: @translifeline Twitter: @TransLifeline
  • Clery Center for Security on Campus: a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping officials from institutions of higher education to meet the standards of the Jeanne Clery Act through training and resources to understand compliance requirements. Instagram: @clerycenter Twitter: @CleryCenter
  • End Rape on Campus: an organization that works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities. Instagram: endrapeoncampus Twitter: @endrapeoncampus
  • FORGE: a national trans anti-violence organization that provides direct services to trans, gender non-confirm, and non-binary survivors of sexual assault. Instagram: @forge_forward Twitter: @FORGEforward
  • Joyful Heart Foundation: an organization dedicated to supporting survivor’s healing process and transforming society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Instagram: @thejhf Twitter: @TheJHF
  • Know your IX: a political advocacy group that is survivor and youth-led that aims to empower students with ending sexual and dating violence in their schools. Instagram: @knowyour9 Twitter: @knowyourIX 
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: an organization dedicated to providing leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaboration and shared and created resources. Instagram: @nsvrc Twitter: @NSVRC
  • No More: is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual violence through awareness and inspiring action. Instagram: @nomoreorg Twitter: @NOMOREorg
  • Students Active for Ending Rape: an organization that works with empowering student moments to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Twitter: @SaferCampus
  • SurvJustice: a legal nonprofit that is, survivor-founded and survivor-led, dedicated to providing justice in the legal system to survivors of sexual and intimate-partner violence. Twitter: @SurvJustice
  • The Trevor Project: a national non-profit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning individuals under the age of 25. Instagram: @trevorproject Twitter: @TrevorProject
  • Victim Rights Law Center: committed to providing legal representation for survivors of sexual violence, especially in Massachusetts and Oregon. Twitter: @VictimRightsLaw.
  • The NW Network: The NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in our community and across the country,
  • The Network / La Red: A survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in LGBTQ, SM (sadomasochism), and polyamorous communities.
  • Anti-Violence Prevention: AVP empowers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy in New York City.
  • Centering Trans Survivors in the #MeToo Movement: A list of articles from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center that highlights the voices of Trans survivors.

Books

Articles

  • Greenberg, K. (2012). Still Hidden in the Closet: Trans Women and Domestic Violence. Berkeley Journal of Gender, (27)2, p. 198-251.
  • James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality. https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF 
  • Linder, C. (2018). Sexual Violence on Campus: Power-conscious Approaches to Awareness, Prevention, and Response. Emerald Publishing. 
  • Linder, C., Grimes, N., Williams, B. M., & Lacy, M. C. (2020). What do we know about campus sexual violence? A content analysis of 10 years of research. The Review of Higher Education, 43(4), 1017-1040.
  • Marine, S. B. (2017). Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences (Harris, J. C. & Linders, C., Ed.) Stylus. 
  • Ussher, J. M., Hawkey, A., Perz, J., Liamputtong, P., Sekar, J., Marjadi, B., Schmied, V., Dune, T., Brook, E. (2020). Crossing boundaries and fetishization: Experiences of sexual violence for Trans Women of Color. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi-org.du.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/0886260520949149

2 responses to “Supporting Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ Survivors of Sexual Assault”

  1. This is urgently needed knowledge, insight and guidance for all who are wanting to support Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ survivors of sexual violence. Indigenous advocates working with sexual assault survivors and non-Indigenous advocates wanting to better serve Native survivors as well as family and community members can all benefit from what you have shared. Thank You!!!

  2. As a indigineous girl from South America I have been sexually assaulted multiple times and it is truly refreshing to see that there are other indigenous folks who experience the same exact thing but at the same time it is sad to see that we are more likely to be sexually assaulted. I’m glad this is being recognized because for the longest time I struggled with being sexually assaulted multiple times by adults . I’m literally 14 by the way so people are most likely gonna say that it’s really sad that I’m struggling so much with trauma at a young age and I get it . It is sad but unfortunately that’s how this world is and I’m so glad people recognize the way SA victims feel . I hate being told to manage my emotions after I go through an extremely traumatic experience especially SA . I hate being told that it’s not that serious when it is to me . A little bit of a personal story but I was sexually assaulted earlier this year by a 17 year old . It was really traumatizing and I was skipping school because I was so scared of the guy that did this to me . I wanted to leave that school completely. This guy still goes to my school and is even successful and people talk about him like he’s a good person and it’s extremely frustrating. I hate seeing that someone who literally traumatized me is being seen as a good person. I went through so much pain this year because of him and the fact that people still see him as a good person is extremely annoying and pisses me off so much. I’m glad I’m able to get support any type of way . Thank you so much for this 🩷

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