LGBT Youth Also Need To Hear “I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault”

By now, you’ve maybe already heard about the Tumblr “I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault,” a new blog dedicated to collecting stories and narratives from survivors of childhood, teen, and young adult sexual assault. It is meant to be a vulnerable, open-submission, storytelling outreach initiative to connect with young survivors in a “Big Sister” way.

In the page’s FAQ, it goes into detail about the discussions that sparked the page’s creation, initially started in a Facebook group, and touches upon the subject of inclusion. “The conversation quickly expanded to include queer, trans, and non-binary youth, who struggle just as painfully as straight cis girls — if not more so — with the trappings of patriarchy and rape culture. All of those voices are welcome and encouraged here too.”

I was relieved when I read this. Navigating these issues is hard enough as is, but even more so when you are a queer, trans, or questioning child, teen, and young adult — which many survivors of assault are or were when they were first assaulted.

One submitted story is that of Jessica Probus, a lesbian speaking about her experiences with sexual assault as a young teen and her sexuality, coming into herself as a lesbian and a feminist, and her struggles in finding a voice to name her assault. “The truth is, I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want anyone to think this was why I was a lesbian. I didn’t want my queer friends or my straight friends or anyone I encountered to think that my experiences with men made me write them off, made me choose to be with women because it was safer. I didn’t want them to think this trauma was my root. And secretly I wasn’t ever totally sure that it wasn’t.”

That part struck a chord. My own history with abuse also made me, at one point, reluctant to face my queerness and feminism. That tired trope of the sad, angry, bitter reactive girl who “hates men” because of the men in her life who hurt her, because liking and desiring women and liking yourself and wanting love and respect and an end to your hurting is the same as “hate.” Because that makes more sense than being so sick and sad and tired of systems that privileges others above you, the systems and people that hurt and abuse and assault you, and being wary of those who are gleefully privileged by them and don’t say a thing when you’re hurt. How do you come forward about abuse or sexual harassment without having your sexuality then dismissed or used against you? How do you reach out for resources or community when everyone posits abuse as being between cis straight dudes and cis straight women? How do you talk about these things without reducing them to these simple, exclusive tropes?

The all-too-real worries and fear of coming forward as a queer victim of abuse and sexual assault run the gamut. Beyond the base erroneous idea that assault can’t happen, or doesn’t happen, between queer folk, especially women, or if it does it isn’t as “bad,” there’s the fear of how coming forward will be received in regards to your orientation or gender, regardless who assaulted you. There’s the worry that people will dismiss your assault based on your gender and/or orientation, that of your attacker, or both. That it will reinforce queerphobic notions of why people are queer (“raped”/”assaulted”/”traumatized” into being gay, especially by another queer person, or if you’re a woman, made “bitter” by the man who assaulted you and therefore not attracted to them, and if you’re a gay man, you’ve become “effeminate” or “turned” to men by assault). That it will increase the stigma around queerness and “prove” it is inherently wrong or perverse because of the higher rate of assault and rape in the community (never mind that those numbers have to do with cultures of entitled and predatory bullying, bigotry, violence, and hate as created and fed by patriarchy, misogyny cis-centricism, homophobia, femmephobia, etc, NOT queerness being perverse and therefore pedophilia or assault being directly linked to queerness). There’s also the fear of being outed, or misgendered, or having your sexuality or expression demonized, blamed, dismissed. All of this, mind, on top of the already pre-existing toxic and violent repercussions of rape culture-victim blaming, shame, dismissal. This culture raises unemployment, homelessness, suicide rates, STIs and unwanted pregnancies, and death in the queer community. All of it disproportionately affecting our youth.

There’s a shameful, dark silence where there needs to be vociferous, affirming, clarifying light.

Resources are slowly but surely coming together to try to debunk the myths and stigma that surrounds child sexual assault and queerness, and address the large disparities in reporting of LGBT sexual assault as they are linked to larger systems of homophobia, transphobia, etc, and help queer survivors and bring their stories to the forefront. A large part of that is the community we as queer folk at large build for each other, the stories we tell and listen to, and how conducive we are to building channels of acceptance and support. It depends so much on how we affirm each other and believe one another, how and work to decrease stigma among ourselves and face the hard truths and engrained bigotries and misconceptions so we can fix the issues.

It’s stories that many queer survivors are working towards telling and putting into public consciousness and that we must listen to. Yes, these conversations and stories are sad, enraging, confusing, difficult, heart-wrenching, emotionally trying, but so necessary; for survivors, for everyone. There’s so much power in telling someone, especially a queer kid or a teen, “I believe you, it’s not your fault.” I am optimistic about what conversations and outreach such a blog aimed towards youth, especially kids on the various intersections of queerness, can start.

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Briana Urena-Ravelo is a lippy 24 year old first gen Afro-Dominicana witchy angsty queer punk based in America's High-Five state. She is currently a freelance writer at Feminspire. Her interests are music, shows, Afro-Caribbean spirituality and culture, radical politics, fashion and clothes, cooking, body modifications, her calico Shampoo, eating candy, and making straight white boys cry. She really wants to hold hands with Lana Del Rey.

Briana has written 5 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. Thumb up 16

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    As a queer survivor, I have never been more moved by an Autostraddle article. This conversation is necessary, as statistically, 1 in 40 women will be queer survivors of sexual assault* and we do not deserve to have our identities or experiences written off because of an assumed causality. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for this.

    *using current estimates of 1 in 10 women identifying as LGBTQ+ and 1 in 4 women experiencing sexual assault

  2. Thumb up 19

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    This, this, this. All of this. I’ve been emotionally abused by my dad throughout most of my life, and physically abused by two men. And even though I’m completely secure in my gay identity, there’s no way to shut off that little nagging voice, put there by other relatives and, if I’m completely honest, myself, that asks, “But IS it because of what’s happened in the past?” I know it affects my relationships with older men. It’s very, very difficult to be honest about something like this when you feel like your whole identity will be torn down because of it.

  3. Thumb up 21

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    “The truth is, I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want anyone to think this was why I was a lesbian [...]I didn’t want them to think this trauma was my root.”

    I want to cry, I can relate to this because of an experience I’ve never talked about, exactly for that reason. I’m not ready to talk about it yet, because I feel that I could only tell a person who isn’t close to me, like a therapist, but I’ve always been afraid that they would assume that I’m queer because of that reason; it may be very dumb, but in my head it feels as if I did a disservice to the community, a paranoid scene where I’m like a case study to say the gay people are gay because of those experiences. The logical me says that’s ridiculous, but the irrational part won’t leave me alone.

    But thank you, thank you for the article Briana. Just by reading it I feel like I’ve lifted part of that burden off my shoulders.

  4. Thumb up 16

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    “…I didn’t want my queer friends or my straight friends or anyone I encountered to think that my experiences with men made me write them off, made me choose to be with women because it was safer.”

    Even if you actually do choose to be with women because you feel they are safer, no one should judge you for that. Everyone needs love and security.

  5. Thumb up 9

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    Love this. I’ve often (secretly? shamefully?) wondered if I’m queer because of my negative experiences with men/the patriarchy. I am saddened by these thoughts because I like my queer identity and would hate for my desire for women to be reduced or ‘traced’ to anything. To do so seems to delegitimize the fluidity of sexuality and holds the presumption that if there were no abuse/patriarchy/otherwise shitty experiences, we would all be straight.

    At the same time I can’t help but think, so what if my experiences (negative or otherwise) have impacted my sexuality in some way? I think rather than judging it or trying to find a ‘root’ or being fearful of why I am the way I am, I should just live in the moment and accept that this is who I am and who I desire right now – acknowledging that my sexuality may change in the future for a variety of reasons, or it may not, and that’s ok too.

  6. Thumb up 9

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    “There’s a shameful, dark silence where there needs to be vociferous, affirming, clarifying light.”

    So much yes. All of this.

    I was raped when I was 19. I didn’t tell a soul for almost a year. It took me even longer than that to utter the r-word, to stop blaming myself, to stop destroying myself in search of escape. There have been days I questioned whether this assault, in some way, impacted — or worse, created — my queerness. I’ve never been able to explain to even my most supportive friends how I fear that this person who robbed me of my own agency once might be continuing to do so every day of my life.

    The words “I believe you; it’s not your fault” are so powerful and so healing, but they alone are not enough. I am so glad to see such conscious inclusion. Yes to more resources, yes to more truth, yes to more representation.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. Thumb up 11

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    This. This, this, this. My mother has been blaming my trans status and my having a boyfriend on the fact that my first girlfriend (back when I presented as female) sexually assaulted me. Not once did she offer comfort. All I got was “I told you so. I knew that dating girls wasn’t for you.” She firmly believes that the assault made me think I was a boy, as a form of escapism. Just, thank you so much for this article.

  8. Thumb up 16

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    I am one of the lucky ones who has never been assaulted. But so many people who I love and care about have been. Whenever another of my friends and family discloses that they were raped or molested, I have to bite back my rage: Not another one. Not a-fucking-nother one.

    So to those of you who commented on this article, and to those who can’t comment yet: I believe you. I support you. I love you.

  9. Thumb up 9

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    I came forward about my childhood sexual abuse before I came out (recently). Both were things I never thought I’d tell my parents.

    Last year I attended my first PFLAG meeting and they were so brilliant. I was open and shared that because of my abuse, I couldn’t possibly announce my sexuality. It would simply be too much for my amazing, caring, loving parents to handle. I didn’t want them to deal with the grief twice over.

    Now I’m on the other side, bless their hearts, my parents have not asked if my abuse is related to my sexuality. No doubt they’ve wondered. Them not asking is the most supportive statement they could make; being content to not know because the answer is irrelevant to their love for me.

    (No I’m not gay because I was abused – there was never a conscious choice)

    I believe my abuse has made me a stronger, more kickass individual than ever. It is both my strength and Achilles heel.

    A wo/man is not her abuse. It’s not you fault. I believe you. I stand with you.

  10. Thumb up 4

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    I don’t want to be Captain Overshare, that person that rants, and is always a little bit too angry, leaves long ranty personal posts everywhere.
    But I do and things not my fault are the reason why.
    Some of it was and still is most definitely related to my perceived queerness. It’s not our fault people are assholes who don’t know how to treat people like people, but culture that tells us and them there are qualifers to being a person, to being considered human and worthy of basic dignity and respect and if we don’t meet them we deserve all the shit we get. We don’t deserve it and we will fight it.

    – unproductive member of society

  11. Thumb up 3

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    this is something I’ve only started talking about this year and something that at this point only three people know but this article means a lot to me because I was a child hood survivor. queer kids do need to know it’s not their fault and I really wish I didn’t have the experience to know that for a fact. I didn’t. I work with kids now and it’s very important to me that they know being queer or being different or having a trauma in their past does not make them broken and that they hear that before their 20s because I know what that’s like. it took me 15 years to be able to tell my self that it wasn’t my fault and that my body responding a certain way did not mean I asked for it and I would like to sincerely thank you for writing and posting this.

  12. Thumb up 2

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    This piece resonates with me so much. I’m a victim/survivor, and I have had people question my sexuality, and wonder if it was due to what happened to me. It’s so invalidating to hear those words from people who care about you. And even if it has influenced my sexuality in any way, that doesn’t make my identity less valid.

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    I have a lot of things I could say about this but sometimes other people have already said it better and so I’ll just leave this here without further comment.

    ““But why can’t saying that ‘sexual abuse causes homosexuality’ just as easily be based on the assumption that there’s something right, rather than something wrong, with being lesbian or gay? As someone who would go so far as to claim lesbianism as one of the welcome effects of sexual abuse, I am happy to contemplate the therapeutic process by which sexual abuse turns girls queer.”” (Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings)

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