Addressing the overlap between sexuality and gender-based minority stressors and sexual violence: Centering 2SLGBTQQIA+ adolescents and young adults

About the project

2SLGBTQQIA+ adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for sexual violence (sexual acts committed against an individual without their clear and free consent) compared to their heterosexual cisgender peers. Prevention and intervention require a more detailed understanding the link between homophobic/transphobic violence victimization and sexual violence victimization. Addressing this problem also requires an understanding of perpetration. The Bullying-Sexual Violence Pathway model specifies how homophobic bullying plays a crucial role in the evolution from peer bullying to sexual violence perpetration.

The objective of the current project was to examine the overlap between homophobic and transphobic discrimination victimization and perpetration with sexual violence victimization and perpetration, and attitudes related to these two forms of violence within the existing literature. Focusing on how these two types of violence co-occur among adolescents and young adults offered both the opportunity to expand on theoretical understanding of how these forms of gender-policing overlap and can inform programming aimed at addressing these two forms of gender-based violence.

Using scoping review guidelines, search terms identified by the research team were then refined through meetings with librarians at two institutions and via targeted testing. A total of 655 unique articles were identified across multiple databases. These articles were reviewed at the abstract level by two students and the primary investigator who, using the proposed guidelines, identified 154 articles for full text review. A total of 48 articles were retained for the analyses. 

Key findings

  • Quantitative studies with adolescents
    • Studies primarily examined links between peer-perpetrated homophobic/transphobic violence and sexual violence in samples drawn from school contexts.
    • Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies generally found moderate to strong links between homophobic or transphobic victimization and perpetration and sexual violence victimization and perpetration.
    • While examined less frequently, victimization of one form of violence (i.e., sexual or homophobic/transphobic violence) was frequently linked with higher levels of perpetration of the other forms of violence, and vice versa.
    • Implications:
      • Sexual and homophobic/transphobic violence overlap among adolescents, suggesting the need for education/prevention approaches that address both forms of violence simultaneously.
  • Quantitative studies with young adults
    • Studies focused on how attitudes regarding either sexual or homophobic/transphobic violence were related to each other, or experiences of one of these two forms of violence.
    • These studies were fairly evenly divided:
      • Half focused on links between attitudes and violence perpetration/victimization among young adults in general.
      • Half focused on links between internalized homophobia/transphobia among 2SLGBTQQIA+ samples and sexual violence.
    • Both types of studies typically found small to moderate effects between attitudes regarding homophobic or transphobic violence and sexual violence, and either other attitudes or victimization or perpetration of the other type of violence.
    • Implications:
      • Modest links were observed in the underlying beliefs that justify both types of behaviours.
      • Internalized homophobia/transphobia is linked to sexual violence experiences.
  • Qualitative studies with adolescents and young adults
    • We examined the qualitative studies of adolescents and young adults together:
      • Many studies had samples including both adolescents and young adults.
      • Methodologically similar approaches were used (i.e., semi-structured interviews or focus groups with 2SLGBTQQIA+ young people living in the United States).
      • Similarity was found in the themes identified across samples with adolescents and young adults.
      • Qualitative themes contextualized links between homophobic/transphobic and sexual violence victimization.
        • Heterosexist violence perceived by participants as unwanted sexual attention.
        • 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth discussed how they were stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual violence as a form of homophobic/transphobic discrimination.
        • Participants noted the particular vulnerability of transgender women to overlapping sexual and transphobic violence.
        • Consequences of concealment (i.e., meeting partners in remote or secret locations, partners having blackmail material) were linked to increased vulnerability to sexual violence.
      • Implications:
        • Interviews and focus groups with 2SLGBTQQIA+ young people provide concrete examples and specify mechanisms by which the stigma associated these identities increases the risk of sexual violence.

    Policy implications

    • Sexual and homophobic/transphobic sexual violence victimization and perpetration were linked.
      • Prevention and intervention approaches for adolescents on sexual and homophobic/transphobic violence need to inform one another.
      • The qualitative findings highlight how sexual violence reinforces homophobic/transphobic norms, suggesting the need to develop resources for service providers.
      • Many of the studies focused on the link between homophobic perpetration and later sexual violence perpetration, suggesting that addressing homophobic/transphobic perpetration earlier in adolescence may also have positive benefits for later sexual violence perpetration prevention.
      • Stigma linking 2SLGBTQQIA+ identities to sexual violence perpetration needs to be directly addressed in intervention and prevention approaches.
    • Internalized homophobia is a mild risk factor for sexual violence among 2SLGBTQQIA+ young adults, although more longitudinal research is needed to understand these findings.
    • The qualitative findings suggest particular populations that need additional support in addressing sexual and homophobic/transphobic violence.
      • The vulnerability of transgender women necessitates the development of intervention and prevention approaches that address the specific needs of this population.
      • Identity concealment is linked to both types of violence, suggesting the need to develop programming that can support individuals who are not comfortable disclosing their identities.

    Further information

    Read the full report

    Contact the researchers

    Alexa Martin-Storey, PhD (principal investigator), Tier II Canada Research Chair in Stigma and Psychosocial Development, Département de Psychoéducation, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec:

    Melanie Dirks, PhD Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec:

    Brett Holfeld, PhD Psychology Department, Memorial University, Cornerbrook, Newfoundland and Labrador:

    Wendy Craig, PhD Department of Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario:

    Geneviève Paquette, PhD Département de Psychoéducation, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec:

    Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD. Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Alberta:

    Rachael Morgan, MA Faculty of Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University, Quebec:

    Y-Lane Noémie Zaine, BA, Département de Psychologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Québec:

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