There is an epidemic of sexual violence against bisexual women, and it’s invisible.
Even most LGBT activists and sexual assault activists are unaware of the statistics that while straight women have a 17 percent chance of being raped and lesbians have a 13 percent chance, bisexual women have a 46 percent chance of being raped. In other words, bisexual women are approximately three times more likely to be raped. Bisexual women also have higher rates of sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, and stalking, compared to both straight and lesbian women. In addition to this, bisexual women survivors have the lowest rates of social support when disclosing trauma, the highest rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after rape, and the most negative experiences when seeking help from formal support resources such as rape crisis centers, therapists, police, and medical professionals.
There are many complex reasons for this huge disparity in rates of violence, but the simplest reason is that bisexual women are hypersexualized, fetishized, and sexually objectified in our culture and media. Bisexual women are stereotyped as slutty, pretending to be bi for sexual attention, and always interested in sex (particularly threesomes). Basically, we are not viewed as people but as sexual objects, always eager to fulfill pornographic fantasies. Our consent doesn’t matter, because our bisexual identity is perceived as automatic consent to anyone and everyone who might be interested in us.
Additionally, bisexual women can be victims of “corrective” rape, a hate crime in which someone is raped because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, usually in an attempt to “fix” them. Bi women are also more likely to end up in abusive relationships, in part because abusers are good at targeting vulnerable people who have poor social support, and also because abusers can use biphobia to threaten their partner, lower their self-esteem, or pressure them into sex against their will.
Biphobia also presents a huge barrier to receiving help in the aftermath of an assault — the stereotype that bi women are slutty and untrustworthy, for example, may lead to friends and family doubting a bi woman survivor when she comes forward. Biphobia also leads to social isolation and causes resources intended to support survivors to be unsafe for bi women. Biphobia within the LGBT community itself is particularly harmful, leaving bi women survivors with very little support. Bi women survivors who are marginalized in other ways face even further barriers to help — trans bi women, bi women of color, and disabled bi women survivors are some of the most vulnerable in our community.
If you find these numbers shocking, you are not alone. I was shocked too, when I learned these statistics a couple of years ago. I was even more surprised to learn that despite all of this, there are no rape recovery resources specficially for bisexual women — no organizations, crisis centers, support groups, books, nothing. So last October, I started the Bi Women Support Network on tumblr. In less than a year, we have grown to nearly 2,500 followers, and we have mailed out care packages and Christmas cards, organized a Facebook support group and a pen pal program, published posts on biphobia and rape recovery, and answered countless questions from bi women survivors.
I am very proud of my work, but more needs to be done for this community. When three out of four bisexual women are sexual assault survivors, we need more than a Tumblr funded by donations and managed by college students in their spare time. I have heard from far too many survivors that our blog is the best — and sometimes only — recovery resource they have. I am honored that we have been able to help these women, but I am heartbroken that their friends, family, and community have turned their backs on them.
It is time for the national conversation on LGBT rights and equality to address the issue of sexual violence in our community. It is time for the dialogue on sexual assault to address intersectionality and amplify the voices of marginalized survivors. During Bi Visibility Week, please do not allow this epidemic of sexual violence against bi women to remain invisible.
LINDSEY KIRKHAM is a Point Scholar and the founder of the Bi Women Support Network.