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Culturally Competent Service Provision to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence

This Applied Research paper provides a review of the research focusing on LGBT survivors of sexual trauma and offers recommendations for culturally competent service provision to LGBT clients.

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VAWnet Summary:

Culturally Competent Service Provision to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence by Sabrina Gentlewarrior with contributions from Kim Fountain (September 2009).

In Brief:

We have an ethical mandate to serve all survivors of sexual violence. Yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors have often been excluded from our work. Sexual violence aimed at LGBT individuals has been perceived as a violent attempt to keep those who are deemed socially inferior in terms of sexual and gender expression 'in line' (Gentlewarrior, Martin-Jearld, Sweetser, Skok & Langevin, 2007/2008; HaleyNelson, 2005; Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesling & Malouf, 2001). Our work must include LGBT survivors not only because it is right, but because it is necessary in order to create a comprehensive response to sexual violence.

LGBT survivors experience sexual violence across the lifespan predicated in bias, as well as violence not based in discrimination; bias-oriented sexual trauma is associated with especially negative post-trauma affects. LGBT survivors experience sexual harassment and child sexual abuse at higher rates than do heterosexual individuals. &&&

Recommendations for effectively serving LGBT survivors of sexual violence include:

1) Engage in ongoing identification and rectification of any attitudes or behaviors predicated in homophobia, biphobia, and/or transphobia.

2) Prioritize the production and dissemination of information focused on LGBT survivors of sexual violence in community-based and peer-reviewed venues.

3) Ensure that our agencies have workers and administrators that reflect the social identities of all of those we serve.

4) Commit to developing a knowledge base about LGBT individuals that includes: a) Information about their historical and current experiences of oppression; and b) Knowledge regarding the coming out and identity development processes.

5) Develop and utilize LGBT-affirmative practice models. Initial steps toward this goal include: a) Use of inclusive language verbally and in all written forms and literature; b) Assessment of all survivors for bias as well as non-bias oriented victimizations; and c) Ability to honor clients' multiple and interconnected social identities and effectively serve clients' in view of these identities.

6) Identify - or if needed - create LGBT community resources dedicated to offering safe, affirming support on a range of issues relevant to members of these communities.

7) Provide professional development opportunities for area agencies focused on the self awareness, knowledge and skills needed to offer culturally competent services to LGBT survivors of sexual violence. &&

8) Participate in policy and social change work dedicated to providing equity of treatment and acceptance to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Sexual violence clinicians, educators, activists and researchers have a proud history of joining survivors in naming and addressing the causes and impact of trauma. Working to ensure equal attention and efficacy in serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors of sexual violence in our clinical, research, education, prevention, & advocacy, legislative and policy efforts is an appropriate next step in our work (Gentlewarrior, Martin-Jearld, Skok & Sweetser, 2008; Van Den Bergh & Crisp, 2004).

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