Rape and Assault: The Awful Reality Faced by LGB Students

A first-of-its-kind nationwide analysis by the CDC has found that LGB-identifying students in the U.S. are three times more likely to have been raped — and many more times likely to face physical assault and harassment –when compared to their heterosexual peers. 

The CDC regularly investigates the attitudes and experiences of young people through a national study instrument known as the standard Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire. However, in the past that questionnaire hasn’t allowed for specific exploration of the experiences of LGBTQ youth — that is, until this year with the addition of a specific question on students’ sexual orientation. 

Why does the government want to know about a young person’s sexual orientation?

Well, there are actually several good reasons. Small-scale studies have repeatedly shown that LGBT youth tend to face far higher levels of school bullying, harassment and even violence. This is further compounded if students belong to a racial or ethnic minority.

Creating effective government policy hinges on being able to solidly identify these problems and then target solutions. Thus, a nationwide investigation into this issue isn’t just a good idea, it’s vital for safeguarding LGBTQ youth.

Unfortunately, this nationwide study was able to confirm what smaller studies had shown: LGB youth are being victimized at an astonishing rate.

Using data from the 2015 national survey — which included a representative sample of more than 15,000 students in grades 9-12 — as well as data from 25 state surveys and 19 urban school district surveys, the researchers examined rates of physical and sexual violence, bullying and mistreatment among a total of 118 health and social behaviors.

The analysis, entitled ”Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12—United States and Selected Sites 2015,” reveals that, compared to heterosexual students, LGB-identifying kids are:

  • 13 percent more likely to have been “forced to have sex” — 18 percent vs. five percent for heterosexual students
  • 14 percent more likely to have experienced sexual violence while dating — 23 percent vs. nine percent
  • 10 percent more likely to have experienced physical violence while dating — 18 percent vs. eight percent
  • 15 percent more likely to have been bullied at school — 34 percent vs. 19 percent
  • 14 percent more likely to have been bullied online — 28 percent vs. 14 percent

The CDC further highlights that LGB students appear to be victim to a number of intersecting factors that put them at a heightened risk of depression, suicide and drug use. For example, the research showed that more than 40 percent of LGB students say they have considered suicide, and 29 percent reported attempting suicide in the past year. That figure is truly shocking.

In addition, LGB students reported having used illegal drugs at a rate five times higher than those of other students. While drug use intersects with several risk factors, discrimination and resulting depression often drive such behavior.

Furthermore, LGB students reported missing school frequently because of fears for their own safety. One in 10 students said they’d cut class in the past 30 days — of the study — alone. While we can’t directly glean information on school performance and lifelong job prospects, this finding could impact students’ abilities to reach their fullest potential and could create roadblocks to their future career plans.

Conspicuously absent from this data is information on trans students.

Based on smaller studies, we know that trans people as a whole tend to face higher rates of violence, sexual assault and barriers to full education, even compared to LGB people. The New York Times reports that the CDC is currently developing a questionnaire that will gauge transgender student health, and this could be ready as soon as 2017.

In the meantime, the CDC recommends a number of policy actions to try to combat these issues, including supporting “health and school-actions and policies that support safe and supportive environments for LGB students.”

The CDC also wants to see “evidence-based programs and interventions designed to address the health-related behaviors that impact LGB youth,” as well as outreach programs to help parents and families with the particular challenges of raising LGB young people. These initiatives can all be applied to trans youth, too.

This national study — and the fact that several states refused to include questions about sexual orientation in their data gathering — makes it abundantly clear that Congress must act now to pass legislation like the Student Non Discrimination Act. Government officials must ensure that all students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, receive the best start in life that they surely deserve.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

50 comments

Marc P.
Marc Pabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

Rape and violence should be punished PERIOD!

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Erika C.
Erika Cabout a year ago

Mutual respects WOULD be Important...in a healthy society no one should be raped, bullied, beaten, killed for living their peaceful life if lived really peacefully without fuelling destructive anarchy ... two females living under one roof actually experince much less violence than dating men..plus many gay people are victims of illegal nazi MK - Ultra human experiments ...MAKE YOUR OWN RESEARCH before judging others. The multiculti and discusting promotion of the fashionable rainbow street parties is another topic...Respect. good articel, Ty. f. sh.

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Karen H.
Karen Habout a year ago

David R, your "silent" majority has never been silent. There's far more vitriol coming from the right trying to push their agenda on everyone else. I have no problem with you being whatever sexual orientation you are or following whatever religion you want. Please give me the same respect. And, Freddie R, I see far too few people on the right doing anything to earn my respect. It's interesting how some of them feel being LGBTQ is perverted, yet the rapist who "punishes" them is not a pervert. Somebody's moral compass is way off line.

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Joanne p.
Joanne pabout a year ago

Ty

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Mark Vaughan
Mark Vaughanabout a year ago

This is appalling, but hardly surprising; we know LGBT kids suffer depression, anxiety, substance abuse problems, and suicide at much greater rates than their sexual/gender conforming peers. The question becomes, now that we have this knowledge, what are we going to DO about it?

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Peter P.
Peter Pabout a year ago

Noted

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Clare O'Beara
Clare Oabout a year ago

College should be about being free to grow to adulthood while learning among people your own age. I hope the campuses can work on making students safe.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare Oabout a year ago

I'm wondering if the fact that these students are more prone to being bullied and abused, could be because they have fewer friends. A pattern started in the idiocy of kids' schools could unthinkingly be continued by the majority of students, who outgrow bullying someone because of glasses or whatever, but don't realise that the different students - for whatever reason - need friends.

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