Sept. 23 2015 12:54 AM

LGBT students report higher rate of sexual violence

Michigan State University students who identify as non-heterosexual were nearly twice as likely to report being a victim of sexual violence than their straight peers, the results of national survey released Monday show.

Members of the LGBT community reported being victims of sexual assault or misconduct at a rate of 23.4 percent compared to 12.9 percent for heterosexual students.

The MSU data is part of a 27-university study funded by the Association of American Universities that surveyed over 150,000 students nationally. The study found about 1 percent of respondents identified as members of the LGBT or gender non-conforming communities. The University of Michigan had similar findings.

The data found that 13.2 percent of MSU students said they experienced non-consensual sexual contact (either penetration or sexual touching) involving physical force or incapacitation. Among female undergraduates, the rate was 24.8 percent.

Amy Hunter, coordinator of the ACLU of Michigan’s Trans Advocacy Project, called the numbers “shocking.”

“The transgender and gender non-conforming community is already most at risk for violence,” Hunter said, “It is now evident that even in spaces where we should be in the safest spaces, we’re not safe.”

Hunter called on MSU officials to implement broad educational outreach for the LGBT and gender non-conforming community about sexual violence, but also general education about the community to the larger university community.

Yvonne Siferd, victim services director for Equality Michigan, a state-wide non-prof it which tracks bias incidents involving the LGBT and HIV communities noted that the surveys revealed a consistent “male privilege bias.”

“Over and over again, female and LG- BTQ student responses were less optimistic than male responses, which I think is telling,” she wrote. “Those who belong to a group that experiences objectification and victim-blaming on a regular basis have a much more realistic perspective than those who have the privilege of not seeing it.”

She noted that the LGBT community is often “targeted for violence and sexual violence because we don't fit into the gender roles society has deemed acceptable for us based on the sex we were assigned at birth.”

State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Township, said the findings “confirmed what we already knew about sexual assault: it’s an epidemic.” Hertel introduced legislation last week to amend Michigan’s laws to reform how high school students are educated on consent.

“It’s not just a heterosexual problem,” Hertel said. “it’s an across-the-board problem.”

MSU recognized the disparity between straight and non-straight students. “There is a need for more outreach to these communities to explore experiences in these high-risk students.," Paulette Granberry Russell, MSU's Title IX coordinator and senior adviser to the president, said in a press release.

MSU spokesman Jason Cody said a sexual violence advisory council being formed this year will be asked to look into these survey results with a specific focus on those students identifying as LGBTQ.