Are Lesbians in More Danger Than Straight Women?

Lesbian and bisexual womens gender presentation correlates with type of trauma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Did you know that lesbian and bisexual women report the highest rates of abuse and assault among women? A focus on gender presentation within this group may lead to better support methods.

A new study examined the correlation between the type of abuse experienced by sexual minority women and their gender presentation (masculine or feminine).

More masculine women often reported instances of childhood abuse whereas more feminine women reported instances of adult sexual assault. 

"Talk to your therapist about any abuse or assault trauma."

Conducted by Keren Lehavot, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, at the University of Washington, this study was based on previous studies which showed that adult lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to report both childhood abuse and adult sexual assault than their female heterosexual counterparts.

A total of 1,243 adult lesbian and bisexual women answered an anonymous online survey through the Rainbow Women's Project, a nation-wide online group of lesbian/gay and bisexual women.

Forty percent of the women identified themselves as femme and fifteen percent identified themselves as butch. Butch typically refers to a more masculine presentation, while femme typically refers to a more feminine presentation.

However, these terms often do not represent lesbian and bisexual women because many women do not feel that either term describes them (this explains why only fifty-five percent of the women surveyed identified themselves as one or the other).

The goal of the study was to identify the sexual minority women that are the most vulnerable or at risk for possible abuse and/or assault.

Dr. Lehavot comments, "The sexual minority women in our sample reported high rates of childhood abuse and neglect and adult sexual assault. Women who described themselves as more butch reported significantly greater childhood emotional and physical neglect. Those who identified themselves as more femme reported significantly more forced adult sex.

Given the gravity of this widespread problem, identifying the most vulnerable among this group is critical. Clinicians and providers working with sexual minorities should consider the role of gender identity and expression in targeted assessments and interventions."

This study was an observational study published in the June 14 issue of Sex Roles, a journal published by Springer.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 25, 2012
Last Updated:
July 5, 2012