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Bisexual women have increased risk of intimate partner violence, new CDC data shows

February 4, 2013

New data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that bisexual women experience significantly higher rates of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner compared to both lesbians and heterosexual women. This finding not only sheds light on this unconscionable social problem but also illustrates the critical need for bisexual inclusion in health research.

Based on data from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), this CDC report is the first of its kind to account for a respondent’s sexual orientation. The report’s findings also include:

  • The lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner is extremely high in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community with lesbian women (43.8%), gay men (26%), bisexual women (61.1%), and bisexual men (37.3%) reporting experiencing this violence, compared to heterosexual women (35%) and heterosexual men (29%).
  • Among women who experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking in the context of an intimate relationship, the majority of bisexual and heterosexual women (89.5% and 98.7%, respectively) reported only male perpetrators while self-identified lesbians (67.4%) reported having only female perpetrators
  • Nearly half of bisexual women (48.2%) and more than a quarter of heterosexual women (28.3%) were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • Nearly 1.1 million gay men and over 900,000 bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.
  • Approximately one-quarter of all men, regardless of sexual orientation, reported being slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner at some point during their lifetime (24% of gay men, 27% of bisexual men, and 26.3% of heterosexual men).

This emphasis on sexual orientation as a key demographic factor in measuring sexual violence marks the beginning of a new era of understanding around these issues. “We know that violence affects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation,” stated CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner.” The release of this report from the CDC marks another step in achieving the LGBT objectives outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services 2012 LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee Report.

While the Task Force applauds the CDC for including sexual orientation in this research, we will continue to encourage federal agencies to collect data on the entire LGBT community, including transgender people. This represents one of the best opportunities we have to better understand the LGBT community.

The Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s joint survey research project, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, found that 19% of respondents reported experiencing domestic violence by a family member because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. Finally, the Task Force is encouraged that this report highlights the commonalities as well as the specificities of challenges facing members of our communities. While it is exceptional to see such nuanced care taken in examining the experiences of bisexual women, for example, it is clear that this epidemic of violence impacts women of all sexual orientations, once again underscoring the necessity that we in the LGBT movement constantly build bridges with the women’s rights movement.

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