Adult LGBQA+ individuals were at higher risk of having experienced sexual violence (SV) during adolescence and young adulthood compared with heterosexual individuals, according to new research from JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers analyzed data from the California study on Violence Experiences Across the Lifespan 2020 study (Cal-VEX), a survey the University of Chicago research firm National Opinion Research Center (NORC), conducted in March 2020. NORC asked adults identified through addressed-based sampling, supplemented with opt-in panels, to describe their experience of violence. The investigators of the current study excluded 5 individuals who reported transgender identity and 7 individuals who indicated other gender identities from the study to ensure anonymity.

Among the 2,102 individuals (aged 46.6±17.7 years) who participated in the survey (survey response rate 26.2%), 48.1% identified as women, and 9.6% identified as LGBQA+. Compared with heterosexual individuals, LGBQA+ individuals were more likely to be aged 18 to 44 and to be of multiracial or other race.


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Verbal sexual harassment was the most common form of SV reported; 16.4% of individuals reported it during adolescence and 16.6% reported it during young adulthood. Men were more likely to have experienced homophobic or transphobic slurs. Women were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, coercion, and violence.

Individuals who identified as LGBQA+ were more likely compared with heterosexual individuals to report sexual harassment and violence, apart from cyber sexual harassment, and to report violence in young adulthood.

Adjusting for age, race and ethnicity, and income, the researchers found that women who identified as LGBQA+ were more likely to have experienced verbal sexual harassment (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.74 95% CI 1.02-2.97), homophobic or transphobic slurs (AOR 14.65), sexual coercion or physically aggressive harassment (AOR 2.33 95% CI 1.30-4.19), and forced sex (AOR 5.35 95% CI 2.74-10.43) in adolescence compared with heterosexual women.

Men who identified as LGBQA+ had higher odds of having experienced homophobic or transphobic slurs (AOR 14.17 95% CI 6.96-28.86) and forced sex (AOR 2.68 95% CI 1.01-7.10) in adolescence compared with heterosexual men.

Black women had lower odds of having experienced cyber sexual harassment compared with White women (AOR 0.09 95% CI 0.01-0.76). Asian men had more than 5 times the odds of experiencing cyber sexual harassment (AOR 5.30 95% CI 1.06-26.61) compared with White individuals. Women with the lowest income quintile were less likely to have experienced homophobic or transphobic slurs in adolescence (AOR 0.23 95% CI 0.06-0.94) compared with women of other income levels.

Adjusted analyses indicated that women who identified as LGBQA+ had higher odds of having experienced homophobic or transphobic slurs in young adulthood (AOR 18.58) compared with heterosexual women.

Men who identified as LGBQA+ were more likely to have experienced all forms of violence in young adulthood (verbal sexual harassment AOR 3.29 95% CI 1.44-7.53, homophobic or transphobic slurs AOR 16.73, cyber sexual harassment AOR 6.32, coercion or physically aggressive sexual harassment AOR 5.54 95% CI 2.08-14.76, forced sex AOR 21.26 95% CI 5.63-80.35).

Asian women were less likely to have experienced verbal sexual harassment compared with White women (AOR 0.38). Black men were 6 times more likely to have experienced coercion or physically aggressive sexual harassment compared with White men.

Women who reported low income were less likely to have experienced verbal sexual harassment in young adulthood (AOR 0.60). Men with low income were more likely to have experienced homophobic or transphobic slurs in young adulthood.

Limitations of the study included recall bias, social desirability bias, and reduced generalizability due to low response rate.

“Along these lines, the wide 95% CIs seen in our male subsample are likely due to inadequate power owing to lower reports of these forms of SV among men,” the researchers noted.

Disclosure: A study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures. 

Reference

Inwards-Breland DJ, Johns NE, Raj A. Sexual violence associated with sexual identity and gender among California adults reporting their experiences as adolescents and young adults. JAMA Psychiatry. 022;5(1):e2144266. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.44266