Post submitted by former HRC Youth Ambassador Jacob Kanter
*Trigger Warning: This post contains content about sexual assault
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, something that every person, including those within the LGBTQ community, should recognize. The unfortunate reality is sexual assault and intimate partner violence disproportionately affect LGBTQ people.
HRC Foundation’s analysis of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data found that LGBTQ youth were twice as likely than non-LGBTQ youth to have experienced either sexual dating violence or physical dating violence, with 22% reporting sexual violence and 16% reporting physical violence.
Two years ago, I became a part of that statistic.
Statistics, however, can desensitize the general public to the act itself. It does not mention how severe of an impact these acts can have upon a person; how after such an act, one can become like stone, with romance, love or trust becoming much more difficult to give or to obtain. How simply being touched or receiving any other act of affection that once brought you happiness, now only brings you fear, shame and deep sorrow. Yet that is the reality for many survivors.
For me and many other survivors, reporting the incident to the authorities is very different from what is portrayed in many TV shows. Generally the opposite of what is shown on our screens is true. In my case, the person who assaulted me was not only my friend, but someone I loved and cared for a great deal. And while I no longer wanted to be a part of his life, I did not want to ruin his life, as I knew that confessing the crime would also mean outing him — and I knew he did not want everyone knowing.
Being outed as LGBTQ is a specific barrier our community faces when deciding whether to report an act of sexual violence. I also knew that if I reported the crime, there was a likelihood no one would believe me; after all, I’ve heard it many times — “men can’t get raped.”
For others, reporting the incident could come with fear of reprisal, or the shame of letting family and friends know, or fearing the justice system that is all too often neglectful of those most vulnerable, such LGBTQ individuals — particularly transgender and Black and Latinx LGBTQ people. We as a society need to address these problems within our criminal justice system and the stigmas that keep many people silent.
For those who have experienced sexual assault, I can only offer what has helped me: Do not go through this alone. Your friends and family, your support system, are there to help you unconditionally, as are licensed therapists and community organizations that specialize in sexual assault such as RAINN. There are many acts of self-care that can help in the healing process; meditation has greatly helped me stop forcing solutions to situations that are beyond my control, to simply accept what is and trust life is heading in the right direction.
And while wounds can heal, scars often do remain. Trusting in your path and trusting things will improve in time is a great start. For me, two years later in the midst of a strong and healthy relationship, things have already begun to improve. And after all, I think if there is anything all of us within the community can agree upon it’s that life can and does get better, and that none of us are alone.