Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 0(0), 1 – 16.
Sexual assault is common in sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals, but few studies have examined SGM victims’ disclosure experiences. Bisexual women were more likely to disclose to formal and informal sources than other women, and SGM victims disclose to mental health professionals at particularly high rates. SGM victims also reported key barriers to disclosure. Impacts of negative social reactions appear to be more negative on psychological symptoms of SGM victims, whereas positive reactions are helpful to recovery.
Sexual assault is common in sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals. While rates of assault are believed to be high, few studies have examined SGM victims’ disclosure experiences. While less studied, there is an increasing body of literature documenting that trans and other gender diverse (TGD) individuals have especially high rates of sexual assault victimization. For example, research suggests that 43–50% of TGD individuals report experiencing a sexual assault (Clements-Nolle et al., 2006; Risser et al., 2005 Stotzer, 2009). Finally, research suggests that SGM individuals experience higher rates of childhood sexual abuse compared to heterosexual, cisgender individuals (Friedman et al., 2011; Roberts et al., 2012). This may be because SGM individuals are perceived as different from and, therefore, more vulnerable than other youth to potential perpetrators due to behaviors that do not adhere to heterosexist and cisgendered. This systematic review identified 13 studies through searches of research databases on SGM populations with sexual victimization. These studies showed wide variation in disclosure rates, various barriers to disclosure, and psychological impacts of social reactions to disclosure on SGM individuals.
Bisexual women were more likely to disclose to formal (e.g., police, healthcare providers) and informal (e.g., friends, family members) sources than other women, and SGM victims disclose to mental health professionals at particularly high rates. Sexual and gender minority victims also reported numerous barriers to disclosure, including those unique to SGM individuals (e.g., fear of being outed). Impacts of negative social reactions appear to be more negative on psychological symptoms of SGM victims, whereas positive reactions are helpful to recovery. Future research is needed taking an intersectional perspective to studying disclosure and social reactions to SGM individuals from both college and community samples, by examining both sexual minority and racial/ethnic identities in the context of intersectional minority stress theory.
Studies are needed of both correlates and consequences of disclosures to both informal and formal support sources to better understand SGM individuals’ reasons for telling and not telling various support sources and the impacts of their disclosure experiences on their recovery. Such data is also needed to inform interventions seeking to identify and intervene with support network members and professionals to reduce negative social reactions and their psychosocial impacts and to increase positive social reactions and general social support from informal support sources.
(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above).