Thanks to the help of a few Point alums, I was published in the Advocate last September with an opinion piece that I wrote for Bisexual Awareness Week. The piece was about an issue that is rarely discussed in the LGBTQ community: sexual violence against bisexual women.

Bisexual women are one of the highest risk groups for rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. In the aftermath of this violence, bi women also have the poorest mental health and the most negative experiences with therapists, medical professionals, rape crisis centers, and police. Unfortunately, most LGBTQ activists and sexual assault activists are unaware of these statistics, which means that increasing awareness of this issue is critical before things can start to change. But what comes next after awareness? Once we know the problem, what can we do to solve it?

violence stats
 Source: biresourcecenter.tumblr.com

As the director of the Student Health Consortium with the Associated Students of the University of Washington, and as a public health major, I am interested in approaching sexual violence as a public health issue.  Sexual violence is widely understood to be a social issue and a criminal justice issue, but the field of public health has the potential to make a great impact here as well. Sexual assault survivors suffer short and long-term health impacts, both physically and mentally. Injuries, STIs, pregnancy, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, PTSD, and risky health behaviors such as substance abuse and self-harm are just a few examples of health problems that can arise after an experience of trauma.

 

event photo
Lindsey Kirkham (R) & Jazmine Perez,  at the Everybody Every Body Fashion Show.        Photo Sonia Xu

Access to health care that is trauma-informed, sensitive, and respectful can make a world of difference in the recovery of a survivor. Unfortunately, bi women survivors have the odds stacked against them when it comes to their health. Bisexual women are less likely to have health insurance, less likely to be able to afford health care, and more likely to have physical and mental health issues.

Compared with straight women and lesbians, bisexual women who have been sexually assaulted have the highest risk of depression and PTSD, the lowest rates of social support, and the most negative experiences seeking help from a medical professional or therapist.

In my role as ASUW Student Health Consortium director and as part of my Point community service project, next month I will be giving a training about this important issue to the on-campus medical providers and counselors at UW. I am excited to see my university support this training, and with any luck, students who are LGBTQ survivors will be able to have more positive experiences seeking help.

Sexual assault activism isn’t easy, especially as a queer survivor, but the support I have received from my university and from the Point Foundation makes me hopeful that things can change.

This post is written by Point Scholar Lindsey Kirkham

Lindsey KirkhamLindsey Kirkham is an undergraduate at the University of Washington studying public health. She grew up in Idaho, where she struggled to come to terms with her bisexuality, but fortunately she had supportive friends and family when she came out shortly after her high school graduation. Her primary interests as both a public health student and a social activist include HIV/AIDS, women’s and LGBTQ health, sexual assault, and social determinants of health.

Read more about Lindsey.

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