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Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens have higher risk of physical and sexual abuse

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Physical and sexual abuse

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens have higher risk of physical and sexual abuse

New research has found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens have higher risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse as compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

The research, conducted by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was based on surveys of nearly 29,000 teens aged 14 to 18 that was conducted in 2015 and 2017.

The research was published online last March 9 as research letter in JAMA Pediatrics.

Physical and sexual abuse among LGB teens

According to the study, gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are twice more likely to risk physical violence from their romantic partner or anyone else, as compared to their straight peers.

The study is the first to use a recent nationally representative sample to assess the scope of physical and sexual violence among gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens.

Lead author Theodore Caputi, a research consultant with the Health Equity Research Lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said the findings were “striking.”

“Unfortunately, physical and sexual violence are commonplace in the daily lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning adolescents,” Caputi said.

Caputi pointed out that over one in 10 gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens reported intimate partner violence in the past year. Likewise, more than one in five said they had been sexually assaulted.

“Given the severe physical, mental and emotional health consequences of violence victimhood, this high prevalence represents a public health crisis,” he said.

LGB physical and sexual abuse by the numbers

In the 2015 and 2017 surveys, respondents were asked about their sexual orientation, and whether they had experienced violence in the year before at the hands of their partner or someone else.

In the 2017 survey, they were also asked if they had been sexually assaulted.

The surveys revealed that lesbian and bisexual girls had nearly twice the risk of engaging in a physical fight as compared to straight girls. This was either at school or somewhere else.

Likewise, gay and bisexual boys faced five times the risk of sexual assault or forced intercourse as compared to their straight boys.

Lastly, bisexual teens had a high risk of both physical violence from their intimate partner and sexual assault in general.

Protecting LGB teens through interventions

Caitlin Ryan, director of San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, an LGBTQ child and youth research, education and advocacy group, agreed with Caputi’s assessment.

“These high levels of physical violence, forced intercourse and sexual assault towards lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are very alarming, and call for targeted violence prevention and intervention services,” Ryan said.

Caputi said their study didn’t go into the specific underlying causes of the physical and sexual violence. However, he said their findings should be seen as a cal to action.

“All adults have a role to play in fostering accepting and safe environments for LGBQ children,” he said.

Ryan agreed, saying that there is a need to build “supportive environments that affirm LGBTQ children and youth, and increasing support in families, schools, congregations and community institutions.”

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