Studies reveal minorities make up the majority of our nation's sexual trauma survivors.
It’s a fact well-known to victim advocates and crisis counselors who work with survivors that perpetrators of sexual assault know zero limitations, and sexual violence exists outside of any boundaries. There is not one “type” of person – no gender, no race, no ability, no socioeconomic class or education level, no population in any part of the world – that is not affected by sexual violence.
However, more studies and research into the factors that imply risk of victimization have begun to shed light on the impact of sexual assault on marginalized peoples. Earlier this year, a survey conducted by the Department of Justice Statistics revealed that the numbers of sexual assault victims in low-income, racial and ethnic minority, and homosexual or transgender communities are disproportionately higher than for wealthy, white, or heterosexual populations.
The how and why behind these staggering statistics are still undefined, but advocates and legal experts have a few ideas regarding the causes.
For example, in low-income communities, where sexual assault is 12 times more prevalent than in wealthy areas, victims are less likely to report. A great number of sexual violence complaints come from workers in food service and accommodation industries, where there are employee-supervisor relationships that involve significant power differences.
According to a report by Alana Samuels of The Atlantic, predators view low-level employees in these trades as easy targets because their “paycheck is the only thing standing between [their] family and homelessness.” This creates a nasty cycle of victims who are too intimidated by a predatory supervisor to report the crime, and perpetrators who are confident in their ability to continue without consequences.
Other factors preventing victims in poor communities from reporting these crimes include trouble with law enforcement or undocumented status, the high cost of legal representation, and the fear of being blamed or doubted. As Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center puts it, “[society’s] willingness to believe all victims of harassment and violence is not extended to all victims equally.”
Unfortunately, this is one of the foremost issues facing racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ minorities as well.
In multiple studies published just this year, college campuses became the focus for understanding sexual assault and minority populations. At many universities, black students (men and women) were more likely to be victimized than white students. Gay and bisexual men were victimized more often than straight men. Transgender students were 300% percent more likely to be sexually assaulted than cisgender men, and black transgender students had a 700% higher risk of being victimized than white transgender men.
In addition to the staggering risks for racial and LGBTQ minority populations, the psychological impact seems to hit them harder. Victims within these subgroups are more likely to suffer from PTSD, possibly due to the combination of sexual violence and hate crime victimization, but also to blame is the lack of programs dedicated to assisting racial minorities.
These nationwide studies concluded that college campuses with more inclusive philosophies saw fewer incidents of sexual assault all-around. The suggestion here is that programs which combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discriminatory behavior would serve to decrease the prevalence of sexual violence toward the affected populations.
There is a great need for interventions specifically geared toward low-income and minority groups, not only to encourage victims to come forward and report, but to find support for recovery and healing. Programs that focus on resiliency and empowerment are the key to reaching more marginalized populations.
Resilience is found in the ability to recover quickly from hardship and struggle. Empowerment is achieved in seizing one’s ability to control their own life and reach new goals. The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors in Newport News, Virginia is a safe, inclusive place for healing and empowerment. We believe resilience is a quality inherent to all individuals from every corner of the planet.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, please contact us at (757) 599-9844 to get more information on how The Center can help.