Bi Women under attack

BCN 118 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 118, April 2013

USA report highlights domestic & other violence levelsare higher for bi women than for either gay or straight

Are bisexual women twice as likely to be abused as straight or lesbian women?

In January the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings from a study that gauges the prevalence of sexual violence among LGBT men and women in the US. The study was The National Intimate Partner And Sexual Violence Survey  which was a study conducted in 2010 through first-person interviews consisting of questions that separated cases of physical violence, rape and stalking. Participants in the study were not asked whether their sexual orientation or sex of the perpetrator had any relation or correlation to being victimized.

The report can be found here:

The main findings that will be of interest to BCN readers are that
· 49% of bisexual women had experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner, which was more than twice as high as the straight women surveyed (23%)
· bisexual women (22.1%) were found to experience rape twice as frequently as straight women (9.1%)
· 31.1% of bisexual women, compared to 10.2% of heterosexual women, had experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime
· 61% of the bisexual women interviewed experienced rape, violence and/or stalking in their lifetime compared to 43.8% of lesbians and 35.5% of straight women.

A total of 9,086 females and 7,421 males completed the survey. In the sample 96.5% females identified as heterosexual, 2.2% as bisexual and 1.3% as lesbian. For males taking part in the survey, 96.8% identified as heterosexual, 1.2% as bisexual, and 2% as gay. Given that estimates for the percentage of the population that is lesbian, gay or bisexual are frequently higher than those in the samples used it’s hard to say whether this report is just showing the tip of the iceberg, or if the relatively small samples of bisexual women skewed the data to make things look worse than they are.

The report also highlighted that, due to fluidity of sexuality over an individual’s lifetime, the sexual orientation of people surveyed was not necessarily the sexual orientation they identified with at the time of incidents happening. Either way, it would be imprudent to dismiss these findings.

The report also highlighted the lack of services specifically tailored to LGB people experiencing intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking in the US, a situation that is reflected in the UK. The report also said that additional efforts could be made to enhance training for domestic violence and sexual assault service providers to improve access to services for individuals who either experience various forms of sexual violence and harassment in the context of a same-sex relationship.

In the meantime, what can we as a community do? The strategy really needs to be twofold – educating ourselves within our community about the impact of sexual violence and educating the organisations and services that we may use if we experience this.

More discussion needs to be had within the bi community about sexual violence, to encourage an open atmosphere where people can discuss the subject freely; so those who have experienced it can be open about it without the fear of stigma, and those who have not experienced it can better understand how to be allies.

With regards to outside organisations, we need to look at how we as a community engage with them. Possible options include campaigning or offering training to organisations; allying ourselves with existing organisations that deal with sexual violence, such as Broken Rainbow, may be a further option. We also need to encourage bisexuals to use these services where they exist to illustrate that there is a problem with the disproportionate lack of sexual violence experienced by bisexuals to encourage organisations to be proactive in changing the way they work with us.

Whatever we choose to do, it won’t be an easy journey. But it’s one that we have to go on, and the future benefits are bound to outweigh the discomfort suffered in the meantime.