We Are For Survivors, Too

In the LGBT community, we know our issues. We have a clear grip on what's important to us and what we need to fight for - even if we sometimes disagree on the details or order of importance.

But to some, there are still issues that are largely ignored. At the I Am For Survivors Conference, one of those issues will be brought to the surface: sexual and domestic violence in the LGBT community. The two-day event, held in Mount Pleasant, will focus on helping those traumatized by sexual assault or domestic abuse to overcome their experiences, and will feature workshops hosted by comedian and educator Karen Williams and clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Neumann Mascis of The Meeting Point in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

It is aimed to help educate both survivors of assault and clinicians learning how to treat those who have been assaulted. But moreover, it is an invaluable two-day workshop for anyone in the LGBT community.

As Williams pointed out in an interview with Between The Lines, sexual violence is an oft-ignored issue in the gay community, and society at large. It is awkward and it is sensitive, so we don't talk about it.

In the gay community specifically, we see issues like domestic assault and rape as topics to distance ourselves from, especially when our harshest opponents seek to group us in with sexual predators, child molesters and "sexual deviants." We seek to be perfect model citizens, constantly feeling as though we're being scrutinized for our behavior. We worry that if we admit that domestic violence, sexual assault and even child molestation is committed to and by LGBT people, we will only add fuel to anti-gay fires.

But ignoring it results in a much worse outcome.

The idea that people can come forward about rape or assault without feeling that it is their fault, or that they should be ashamed is a relatively new one. Now, compile that with the shame and fear that many LGBT people still feel about their sexuality, and it becomes extremely hard for gay, lesbian and transgender victims of assault to feel as though they are allowed to speak up, or that they will have support if and when they do.

The I Am For Survivors conference is an excellent start to ending that fear and providing that support. Held specifically for the LGBT community, it is hosted by a non-gay organization, the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. We at BTL applaud their efforts as allies and hope that this event opens the door to add the prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence - and support of LGBT victims - to our ever-expanding list of important issues.

Ignoring sexual violence and domestic assault will not make it go away, nor will it ever stop our opponents from pointing fingers and calling us names. Thus, as is usually the case, it is better to address the issue head-on. LGBT people should never have to feel alone in coming out, and so they should never feel alone in the pain of domestic or sexual assault, either. Let's make sure that they don't.

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