Identity and Intersectionality
Why is it important to recognize different identities and communities when discussing sexual/relationship violence?
Based on national data as well as Stanford’s 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey, minoritized groups based on race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability are disproportionately victimized when it comes to sexual and relationship violence. This happens because of various oppressions (e.g. racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism), NOT the minoritized groups themselves.
By listening and learning from the experiences of survivors who hold different identities, we can create an inclusive and trauma-informed environment that is aware of the unique challenges and forms of support to best help a survivor. Additionally, recognizing different identities and/or communities when discussing sexual violence can help bring awareness, conversation, and future forms of support and prevention to our campus.
Intersectionality or Intersectional Theory is a term that was first coined by scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw. This theory seeks to examine how various social and biological categorizations like gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation religion, etc. interact on multiple levels in relation to systems of oppression and discrimination.
The education team of SHARE uses the theory of intersectionality as a framework to guide our prevention, education, and outreach programming. The use of an intersectional framework is paramount so that we can better serve the entirety of the Stanford community.
There exist a number of barriers that may prevent a survivor from reporting or seeking help (O’Donohue 2019). However, when supporting survivors who hold these minoritized identities, it is important to understand that there may be additional barriers that make it difficult to seek help.
Let’s go over a few examples:
- Interview and survey-based research finds that survivors of stigmatized racial/ethnic groups and the LGBTQ+ community fear that reporting their traumatic experience will make their community “look bad”, especially if their perpetrator also identifies with their community (Duke & Davidson 2009). This can force a survivor to stay silent and avoid seeking help.
- If they do seek help, minoritized survivors may also be met with support systems ignoring or not knowing survivors’ needs because the institutions were not made with and for them. A lack of explicitly inclusive systems can discourage survivors with minoritized identities from coming forward (Ollen et al., 2017).
- For survivors within the LGBTQ+ community, barriers can include a fear of being outed, a fear of being discriminated against, and a fear that others will incorrectly believe that their abuse is less serious than abuse in cisgender, heterosexual contexts (Duke & Davidson 2009).
- “For survivors with disabilities who require assistance with self-care, the aftermath of trauma can be particularly challenging, especially if resources aren’t particularly accessible.” (Bryant-Davis 2008) pg. 32-33
- For survivors who are low-income and first-generation, factors such as money, time, and energy can be significant barriers to seeking help that may be difficult to overcome.
It is essential to understand that minoritized survivors often must navigate cumulative trauma, which can lead to disparate health outcomes (Poon Ghaffari 2020). Because of oppressive and non-inclusive systems, minoritized survivors are exposed to multiple types of trauma such as sexual trauma and racism or relationship abuse and homophobia. This is why explicitly inclusive and trauma-informed resources are critical.
Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Assault: A Resource for LGBTQ+ Students (Source: Stanford's Weiland Health Initiative and Confidential Support Team)