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By Vivian Nunez
November 13, 2014

Being investigated for violating Title IX, by definition, means that an institution is being questioned for, “sex-based discrimination, including sexual assault, that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a victim an educational opportunity or benefit.”

The universal assumption when referring to the victim of a campus, or any, sexual assault is that the victim is almost always a female who has been assaulted by a male. When in reality statistics show that LGBT individuals are three times more likely to experience different forms of sexual harassment and violence.

“I think there is this idea that because I’m openly bisexual or queer, people can behave in obviously inappropriate ways,” Hannah, whose name was changed for privacy, told Marie Claire.

Hannah is a survivor of two different sexual assaults. First, at the hands of a female friend. She was later assaulted by a fellow student, this time a male. Hannah felt safe enough to come forth and report only the incident involving the male.

“I thought: I can’t report this,” continued Hannah, referring to the incident with the female. “I won’t be taken seriously. It doesn’t fit the script for what we know as assault.”

The idea that there is an assumed stringent perception of what defines assault stops those who are LGBT from coming forward.

“Whether because of fears of being “outed,” concerns about physical retaliation or the perceived humiliation of reporting an attack, LGBT sexual assaults have not been accurately documented,” reported an article by Al Jazeera.

The lack of coverage of sexual assault among same-sex couples is also a contributing factor as to why so few LGBT individuals report any instances of assault.

“On our campus, no one really talks about what to do if you’re sexually assaulted and LGBTQ which I find to be a huge problem,” Barbara Gonzalez said, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s obviously not a strictly hetero issue, and is something that needs to be addressed.”

Especially when considering that a study by the American Association of University Women found that at least “70 percent of LGBT students encounter sexual harassment at college from fellow students, faculty members and campus employees.”

Across the board, whether an individual identifies as straight or LGBT, other contributing factors as to why cases are not reported are—not wanting people to know, not believing it was serious enough, not realizing it was a crime or feeling responsible.

Lena Dunham, producer and actress, is a perfect example of how not clearly defining the parameter of what sexual violence actually means can color how a victim perceives the act.

In her new book, Dunham dedicates part of one essay to describe a sexual encounter she had in college, initially describing it as just an amateur sexual encounter. She then dedicates another essay to describing how it took her years before she accepted that the sexual encounter was actually rape.

“I feel like there are 50 ways it’s my fault,” Dunham writes. “But I also know that at no moment did I consent to being handled that way.”

Dunham comes forth to define her assault at Oberlin College as rape at exactly the same time when the conversation on campus sexual assault has hit its peak.

Currently, there are 85 colleges and universities, nationwide, being investigated for Title IX violations. Many of the high profile cases give a voice to female victims who have been sexually assaulted at the hands of a male student.

Unfortunately for LGBT students the coverage is not representative of someone with whom they can relate.

“I think [it’s important] to bring light to these cases and not have them be swept under the rug,” said Ian Jackson, a Graduate Student at Quinnipiac University, who openly identifies as gay. “I think just say, ‘it happens with us too.’ so if there are people out there who have been sexually assaulted, they’re not like, ‘oh, I’m the only one.’”

Statistics show that any LGBT survivors of sexual assault are not alone.

According to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress, 44 percent of LGBT students reported contact sexual harassment, while only 31 percent of straight students reported the same. The study also states that one-third of bisexual women are assaulted between the ages of 18 to 24.

“If these trends hold true throughout the LGBT community, it means that many LGBT students may either arrive on campus as survivors or experience rape or other sexual violence while on campus,” states the study.

On many campuses, resources are available for victims of sexual assault, but the problem in many cases are that those who need the resources don’t know they exist.

“I know that we have PAVE and EVOC on campus for those who are victims of sexual assault,” Gonzalez said of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Neither of these have programs geared toward LGBT awareness, which I find problematic and only further stigmatizes and alienates our community.”

Programs on any campus are expected to not discriminate against any individuals, but perception is key when handling campus sexual assault. If LGBT individuals don’t see themselves represented or outwardly welcome this can affect how likely they are to come forth.

For many, though, the issue being addressed begins with clearly defining what sexual violence means, which is what the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act does.

Under the SaVE Act, sexual violence will now clearly indicate that both dating violence and LGBT sexual assault fall under the umbrella of sexual assault, paving the road for a clearer interpretation of how these cases should be handled.

It also begins, on many campuses, as early as Freshman Orientation, but should not end there.

“I think it’s really only in that first introduction to the University, at orientation, when we’ll hear about [sexual assault],” Jackson said. “Unless they know someone who has been sexually assaulted on campus…It’s not something that’s discussed often, unless it’s at psych classes.”

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