This essay first appeared on Medium.com on October 16, 2017.
**Content note: sexual violence**
On Sunday night, women took to social media to say “#MeToo,” confirming their places among the staggering numbers who’ve experienced sexual violence.
Study after study after nationally representative study finds that bisexual women in particular report higher percentages of sexual assault, rape, intimate partner and domestic violence than lesbian and heterosexual women.
The data is inescapable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. This compares to 44% of lesbian women, 37% of bisexual men, 35% of heterosexual women, 29% of heterosexual men, and 26% of gay men responding to the survey.
Among respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 59% of queer, 51% of pansexual, and 41% of bisexual transgender people reported being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In this survey, sexual assault was defined as unwanted sexual contact such as oral, genital, or anal contact or penetration, forced fondling, and rape.
Bisexual students (cisgender and transgender) report incredibly high rates of sexual assault. The Movement Advancement Project shares that “[a]mong transgender and gender non-conforming students responding to a survey by the Association of American Universities, bisexual transgender and gender non-conforming students reported the highest rate of experiencing non-consensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation.” And a Minnesota study found that 47% of bisexual students had experienced at least one sexual assault in their lifetime, compared to 33% of gay and lesbian students and 17% of heterosexual students.
Why do bisexual women and queer, bisexual, and pansexual transgender people report such incredibly high rates of sexual assault?
According to the Movement Advancement Project:
[T]he National LGBTQ Domestic Violence Capacity Building Learning Center held a series of focus groups with bisexual women survivors of domestic violence and found that bisexual women felt that their abusive partners were threatened by their sexuality and used that as a reason for perpetuating violence.
Bisexual women reported “going back into the closet” as a survival mechanism when experiencing intimate partner violence as their bisexual identity was seen as threatening to abusive partners.
And finally, bisexual women survivors reported feeling isolated from LGBTQ people and from the broader community and often did not disclose their bisexual identity when accessing services for intimate partner violence. (Emphasis mine.)
How to we prevent violence against bisexual women, transgender people, and non-binary people?
First, we can raise the voices of bisexual women saying #MeToo. Retweet, like, and comment positively on social media.
Second, we can commit to not perpetuating stereotypes about bisexual people, stereotypes that excuse sexual violence. Next time you hear someone make a joke about a bisexual person, speak up. Here’s an example of something you can say when you hear biphobic humor: “Hey, that’s not cool. Bisexual folks face a lot of violence because of stereotypes like that. Cut it out.”
Third, we can demand that state and federal surveys of violence victims continue to collect data on sexual orientation. There is a coordinated attack on data collection by the federal government. We must speak out against the erasure of LGBT people from national surveys and then, when the data is released, we must demand that the data on bisexual people be analyzed individually.
Fourth, we can believe women when they speak up about violence and hold those committing the violence accountable. Believe bisexual people when we tell you we are bisexual. Believe women, transgender people, and non-binary people when we tell you we have experienced sexual violence.
If you are a bisexual person who has experienced sexual violence, please take care of yourself today. Listen to Kesha’s new album, a phoenix of pain and self-love, rising from the ashes of sexual violence against a bisexual woman.