To the editor: Sexual assaults take many forms, have a variety of victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Sexual assault is an umbrella term, and describes non-consensual sexual acts spanning from cat calling, to groping, to forcible rape. Sexual assault is a crime unrestrained by race, gender, social class, or background. It is a crime of power, and often causes the
victim to feel guilt, shame and fear, even if the act was viewed by the perpetrator as a compliment or joke. Sexual assault is perpetrated under the assumption that the victims do not have a right to their own bodies and boundaries.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, victims of sexual assault, the actions may be viewed as “corrective,” an attempt to forcibly alter their sexuality. Studies have shown that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population experiences sexual assault at the same or higher rate than that of  heterosexual or cis-gendered counterparts. Sexual assault by female perpetrators is frequently taken less seriously, since women are less likely to be viewed as threatening. Bisexual women are especially  prone to assault, since they may be viewed as promiscuous, or always willing.

In Vermont, these  barriers are compounded by rural settings, which can lead to a sense of isolation for victims. The fear of being outed, or having a negative experience with police and medical services often keeps LGBT victims from reporting sexual assaults, leaving them with few resources to deal with their  experiences. Domestic violence shelters often turn away male and trans victims of assault for fear that they will upset the female residents. SafeSpace at RU12 has been established to assist the victims of  sexual and violent assault, and provide a welcoming location for LGBT individuals, and provides services
throughout Vermont.

It is my hope that, in the future, all forms of sexual assault will be taken seriously, regardless of sexuality and gender norms. This includes training police and medical services in diversity, setting up violence shelters to accommodate all victims, and challenging bystanders to stand up to every day sexual assault
and violence.

If you or someone you know has experienced violence, advocates in the SafeSpace program can help provide emotional support, advocacy, information and referrals. For anonymous online violence reporting, go to

Advocates are available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at 802-863-0003 or toll free
Liz Underwood
SafeSpace Program intern
RU12? Community Center
255 South Champlain St. Suite 12
Burlington, VT 05401

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