Sexual Violence in Lesbian Communities: Marginalized and Silenced

by: C. Imani Williams


April  and  Sexual Violence Awareness month have ended and I remain over the fuckery!  Reasons include, being bounced from an Incest Survivors’ Support group during Womyn’s Her story month for being:  a dyke, gay, lesbian, same gender loving, Black, opinionated; whatever.   I was the only Black woman present the five consecutive weeks I attended could that be the reason? Fact.  There is an overt amount of “stepping out on faith”, that gives a person the courage to crawl into an Incest survivors group. Since I was the only person who “came out” as same gender loving,  we don’t know if anyone else sitting there may have been moved to introduce their total selves after me.  The likely hood of it happening now is nil.  I’ve dealt with that situation and pulled myself back together and now volunteer with the RAINN’s Speaker’s Bureau.  I have found through this horror a LGBTQ friendly therapist who is conscious and my healing has started. I’m thankful , better, stronger and more determined to use my voice to eradicate injustice.

The many smoke and mirrors that sexual assault hides behind in our community are being called out. As I continue to grow, stretch and heal I’m meeting people and learning of her~ stories that are changing my life in positive ways.  Women are miraculous in all of our glory. We short change ourselves when we cocoon and clique up to the point of excluding wo-myn who differ from our comfort zone.

I believe my willingness to want to know other womyn regardless of culture and background stems from growing up in the Black community with strong, wonderful female role models.  Their presence and love has always given me the confidence to meet, greet and connect people for positive change.

To that end I’m very concerned over the lack and discussion and movement towards ending dating and sexual violence within womyn centered communities. From female pimps dealing in the dance and drug industry, to women knowing their temperament yet not seeking help; to women seeking out much younger companionship and abusing the power; people are hurting.

One in four women will suffer domestic or sexual violence from a female partner.  These crimes are less likely to be reported to the police for obvious reasons.  Social stigma aside, because women and especially women who present as lesbian are often labeled as emotional and unstable; reporting abuse of being fondled or raped by a woman and not being believed is often the outcome.  This is disheartening.

Fortunately, there are many cities and communities where special units within police departments handle same sex domestic violence and sexual assault calls well. These are places that employ someone who is fluent in LGBTQ issues and they generally work with hospitals in generating rape kits to be used for evidence.   Culturally sensitive investigations make sorting out exactly who the perpetrator is a little easier and brings light in cases where there are no bruises and overturned   furniture. Sometimes the deception is so deep i.e. a petite femme assaulting a stud, or two femmes with equal sizing, or something similar. Point is, she may tell police, you were deranged and assaulted her!  So the more helping professionals who are tuned in the better for everyone. The goal here is to bring harmony and authenticity back to our communities and to help people heal.

I know women who have stayed in physically abusive relationships with women for pretty much the same reasons as str8 women.    Often  the reason is financial in nature.  I have stayed in emotionally unhealthy situations with both men and women for a variety of reasons.  Regardless of the gender of the  players neither situation was any less heinous than the other.  I wasn’t in a healthy place and that makes all the difference.  We put up with much less nonsense, when we’re healthy.

Unless there was a  summit that discussed handling sexual violence where all women were invited then I think we still have a lot of work to do around this issue.  Sexual violence is shame based. This means people don’t talk.  There are often children caught up in these relationships, it is bigger than just us. The government isn’t going to intervene on this one ladies. It is incumbent upon community organizing to get all of our voices heard. Domestic Violence shelters are coming around and  there are Executive Directors who are socially conscious and committed to justice. Voices heard through Task Force committees need to be inclusive of lesbian, bi attracted and transgender women.  Doing it the old way and treating only one type of relationship (heterosexual) does not aid in the process of growth and understanding.

Perhaps some of what I’m feeling has to do with what I got from the short but beautiful time I was blessed to spend with Mother Ruth Ellis, (1899-2000). She was about love of womyn, no matter race or background. Having been blessed to be the first full time employee of the Street Outreach program and Drop in Center in her name from 2002-2003, I certainly know the high statistics on LGBTQ youth facing same sex violence. It comes from all ends young studs breaking in femme girl friends, male same sex violence with young men vying to be tops and beatings where “winner takes all”, and in the trans community;  abuse on all levels from almost everyone.  Continuing the work of Mother Ruth Ellis and others who have brought us this far in womyn centered love is really the right thing to do. Youth are watching us as well and we know there is a lot to figure out.  There In lays the argument for obligation. When we know better we do better.

“A good number of lesbian identified womyn out here are also incest survivors. In coming out about my being rejected by Incest Survivor’s Anonymous (ISA), Long Beach, CA chapter; I am being proactive in my healing. Keep seeking out help for your recovery, no matter what.”

Laws vary by state and there are generally resources in large and mid sized  cities.  Rural sisters face more scarce resources but can now be connected via the Internet.  There are many organizations as well as concerned community members running blogs and on line groups where you can participate from anywhere 2-4-7, with an Internet connection.

If you are in an abusive situation your gut has already told you some things simply are not cool. As you gather your strength to reclaim your life these resources and places of support are invaluable. You’re convinced to a degree that this isn’t really happening. It is. Whether you identify as the sweetest of sweet or the most hard core abuse is not okay. Ever.

Still not sure if any of this applies? Other forms of abuse include emotional, verbal and spiritual. She may enjoy:  playing with your head, calling you out of your name, switching personalities and expecting you to adapt to whatever is being dished out, forcing sex and breaking other personal boundaries. This again can come in the form of unwanted fondling, touch, and sexual advances. Yes, someone performing orally on you against your will is rape.

For the womyn still in situations where you’ve been forced to drink a little or excessive when you did not want to, forced drug use, taking beatings verbally emotionally and physically for perceived infidelity or just for being friendly, being threatened with violence with an a weapon; knife, gun, scissors anything that you feel was going to be used against you; this is abuse.

Grabbing your body parts, forcing you to watch porn or engage in unwanted sexual activity is all abuse.

Trusted friends can be helpful especially if you decide to prosecute further down the road. Some of them are aware anyway. You can almost count on it. It sometimes takes womyn seven to eight times before they finally leave an abusive heterosexual  relationship and stay ghost. There are more resources for str8 women.  Women partnered with women generally  stay in abusive situations longer.  The domestic and sexual crimes being committed in same sex relationships is growing and becoming more violent in nature.

Blame it on whatever works. We live in a society that continues to devalue women. We are so caught up in living that sometimes we don’t see where we play a part in keeping this system alive.  We need more studies that accurately speak to our communities and that work towards connecting womyn with accessible services that will work. Also needed are voices yours, mine ours speaking up and out about the real dangers of same sex sexual violence. Hurting people, hurt people. When we acknowledge problems we can find solutions individually and collectively.

This topic may not make the Today Show, your local house of worship or your office politics but I guarantee there are opportunities everyday to grow our communities in love.  Strengthening the weak and embracing all of who we are, will certainly bring about some positive cosmic stuff and help to eliminate rampant fuckery.

I am a survivor and so are you. All the best as you push forward and move mountains.

Courage, faith and all the best.

~c. imani  Williams