Carsey Study reveals concerning percentages of abuse in relationships of LGBT students

By Dean Fiotto
On April 4, 2014

More than 40 percent of surveyed LGBT college students (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and other non-heterosexual identities) have been victims of abuse in current relationships. 

This, from a recent study conducted through the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, is a similar rate of violence experienced in heterosexual relationships. 

Katie Edwards, assistant professor of psychology and women's studies and faculty fellow at the Carsey Institute, and Kateryna Sylaska, a doctoral student in social psychology at UNH, performed the study by contacting college students across the nation. 

"Our main goal," Edwards said, "is to figure out how to best facilitate and support survivors of intimate partner violence."

According to the brief, most research in relationship abuse is geared towards heterosexual relationships; less is known about the experience of LGBT individuals.

"Widespread efforts are needed to reduce homophobia and heterosexism broadly," the study said, "as are educational efforts such as social media." 

Twitter and Facebook may seem like shaky foundations for positivity, but as Dr. Edwards notes,  "Social media is so prevalent with adolescents and young adults these days that it has become the perfect outlet to enact change." 

The Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP), the UNH anti-violence group, sets a strong precedent by working toward constructive intervention through popular platforms.

"We use social media to engage with other organizations on campus," SHARPP Interim-Director Amy Culp said. "Our followers get a broad spectrum of issues and resources." 

The study found that more than one-third of LGBT victims kept their abuse a secret. Of those who did reach out, only 9 percent sought professional help through organizations like SHARRP. Annie Crossman, a senior at UNH and member of the President's Commission on the Status of LGBT Issues, noted that these are "concerning percentages."

"We must get information out to all formal institutions," Crossman said. "When a victim is received negatively at a hospital or police station because of their identity, then that is very harmful. It sets the tone for any kind of disclosure."

This spread of information can lead to more accessible outlets of help. "Counseling sessions for men only or for women only might inadvertently include both the victim and perpetrator in same-sex couples," according to the study. 

"Although gender is important," Edwards said, "the issue is more complicated than men versus women." Many who identify with the LGBT community may not know where to go to seek help, or are afraid that groups won't believe them. 

"No one is immune to an abusive relationship," Culp said. "It is not just women who are victims and it is not just a heterosexual issue. That is why we encourage anybody to come in and get help."

The SHARPP office is located at Wolff House in front of Health Services and its 24/7-crisis hotline is available at (603) 862-7233.

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