Politics & Lifestyle

We need to band together and address sexual assault in queer women communities

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On Oct 10, 2017

How much is too much? What happens when she says no?

Both of you have been preparing for this all day; flirty messages, subtle hints here and there and then suddenly when the time comes, you start kissing her and she says she is not ready. She is not feeling it. What do you do? What course of action do you take? How do you handle that?

These are some of the many questions that go through many WSW’s (Women who have sex with women) minds after their partners have turned down their sexual advances, in what seems like the last minute.

While some people will understand and respect their partners position, and even give them the space and respect they want and deserve, others will go ahead and have sex with them without their consent.

Wait, sex without a person’s consent? Isn’t that rape? Do women rape other women? Is it possible? Does it happen?

Yes, it is rape, it happens, it’s very possible and women do rape other women.

Rape by another woman: The assault by forcible stimulation of a female’s genitalia by a lesbian perpetrator by use of digital manipulation, oral sex, strap ons, other dildos, or other foreign object or tribadism.

Often when we talk about rape, we tend to associate it with a male perpetrator forgetting that women can be as bad as men. This is even see on most websites that handles rape cases using male terminologies like ‘if he does… If he says… If he..’ thus creating an instant barrier. This gives the victims the impression that this (rape) does not happen to them and that it’s an heterosexual thing and thereby forces them to turn it off by not reporting it, not talking about it or even not seeking professional help.

Lesbian rape affects most of us in the queer community although we rarely talk about it due to fear stigmatization, being misunderstood or simply being ridiculed.

Jo Harvey Barringer, CEO of Broken Rainbowthe only national domestic abuse charity in the U.K. says coming out is a real issue. “How,” she says,” do you tell anyone you have been raped and are living in fear from your partner if no one knows you are gay?”

So, how much damage does lesbian on lesbian rape cause to individuals around the world?

According to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), three-quarters of all rape victims require medical care after the assault. Nearly half of victims sustain injuries that are not a direct result of the act of rape itself. In 30 percent of rapes, a weapon is used against the victim.

The DoJ and the FBI cite rape as the most common violent crime (a woman is raped every two minutes in the U.S.) In addition, more than half of all rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. It may be a lover, a friend or even a trusted confidant. Mostly, a quarter of all rapes are committed by an intimate partner of the victim.

The FBI estimates that only 37 percent of all rapes are reported to the police. The main reason given by victims for not filing a police report is reprisal from the assailant.

Here in Kenya, lesbian rape is rarely reported. This due to fear of having to embark on a detailed description about the situation you got caught up in since for you to seek help, you must give details of the assailant and in some extreme cases, the type relationship you have with the perpetrator.

Reporting a rape incident in the lesbian community means having to come out and identify as a lesbian. This puts most victims at a risk of being ridiculed or even experiencing homophobia. This means having to endure ambiguous questions from the authorities that go like, “ooh! So we hulala na mwanamke? (so you actually fuck women?)”

It’s even harder to get any help since it is illegal to have sexual relations with another woman. One is plagued with the fear of coming out, distrust of/and/or indifference and hostility by the police, unwillingness to turn in members of the lesbian community, stigmatization by the community itself and a sense that female to female rape is not taken as seriously as rape by men. These are some of the many reasons that makes survivors be reluctant when it comes to reporting rape by other women.

The lack of conversation around sexual violence in the LGBT community is saddening. This silence comes from shame, the shame that is associated with being raped, beaten or generally abused. The queer women community ought to be a close knit one since we are already a minority, one that is constantly targeted because of our sexual orientation and it’s only right that for us to want to feel safe amongst our kind.

How do we tackle lesbian rape and in other cases, rape amongst bisexual women who happen to be around/ are dating lesbians?

Let us all provide a safe space for survivors. A place where they can seek help without being judged for who they are. Let us break the silence. Let us have discussions on violence amongst the queer community and find a way to come up with solutions to handle them. Let us have sensitization forums where we teach about the possible signs of an abusive relationship, how to stay safe, how to avoid manipulation, where to get help, etcetera etcetera.

Let us lend a listening ear to anyone who needs our help. Let us reach out to people in abusive relationships. Let us be on the look out for one another. Let us be each other’s keeper.

Let us join hands and help stop RAPE by other women.

This piece forms part of  the #QueeringTheCloak series which is part of a larger project exploring sexual, emotional and physical violence in queer women spaces on the continent.  The project seeks to essentially ‘pull back the cloak’ on shame and silence around this violence.

For all the articles and pieces on #QueeringTheCloak click here.

Here is an article 11 Signs You Are being Gaslight in a relationship and another 10 things the author learned from someone using gaslighting as an abuse tacticFor more on supporting people here is a piece on supporting someone in abusive relationship and also a piece where the woman says At least she didn’t hit me”. There is also a piece by a woman who writes a letter to her ex abuser’s new girlfriend. There is also this piece that gives some advice 6 ways to support a survivor of woman on woman sexual violence.  There is also this piece about tackling abuse in feminist spaces.

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This was first published on The Rustin Times.