Martin-Storey A, Dirks M, Holfeld B, Craig W, Paquette G, Exner-Cortens D, Zaine Y-L, Morgan R. (2023). Addressing the overlap between sexual violence and sexuality and gender-based minority stressors: Advancing understanding by centering sexual and gender minority adolescents and young adults. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Background: Sexual minority youth (i.e., youth who report same-gender attraction, sexual behaviour or identities indicative these patterns of sexual identity or behaviour) and gender minority youth (i.e., youth whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth) report higher levels of sexual violence compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Gender and/or sexual minority stressors (defined here as discriminatory experiences at the individual, institutional or societal level reflective of the stigma associated with gender and/or sexual minority status) are fundamental for understanding the health and wellbeing disparities between sexual and gender minority youth, and their heterosexual, cisgender peers. Unpacking this vulnerability to sexual violence, moreover, requires an understanding of how minority stressors are linked to both the victimization and the perpetration of sexual violence.
Objectives: The overall objective of the project was, from a developmental perspective, to examine how the distinct aspects of sexual violence and minority stressors are linked among adolescents and young adults. We were interested in understanding how gender and sexuality-based minority stressors were linked to sexual violence victimization and perpetration, as well as the attitudes that inform sexual violence perpetration (i.e., rape myth acceptance). We were particularly interested in understanding the extent to which these links could be observed online vs. offline.
Methodology: The objectives were addressed with a scoping review. Search terms were identified and relevant quantitative and qualitative studies in which (a) sexual violence victimization, perpetration, and attitudes, and (b) minority stressors were linked among adolescents and young adults. A total of 42 studies were identified and analyzed.
Results: Studies on adolescents typically focused on the overlap between perpetration or victimization of these different forms of gender-based violence. Findings suggested consistent small to moderate links in between minority stressors and sexual violence victimization and perpetration among adolescent populations. Studies on young adult populations generally examined the links between homophobic attitudes and sexual violence victimization and perpetration among sexual and gender minority populations, or with sexual-violence related attitudes among general populations. Studies showed small and inconsistent links between internalized homophobia and sexual violence victimization and perpetration, and stronger and more consistent links between homophobic and transphobic attitudes and rape myth acceptance among the broader population. Finally, the studies identified in the qualitative literature focused on the experiences of adolescent and young adults gender and sexual minority youth with regards to minority stressors and sexual violence. Findings from these studies suggested how sexual and gender minority adolescents had important insights into how minority stressors and sexual violence overlapped, including how they saw sexual violence as a tool for implementing homophobia and transphobia, and how homophobia and transphobia impacted sexual violence intervention and prevention.
Key messages: Findings from the scoping review suggest that sexual violence and minority stressors are separate but related constructs in the lives of adolescents and young adults. Results from the qualitative literature underscore how sexual and gender minority youth in particular saw sexual violence as a way of enforcing homophobic and transphobic norms. Addressing homophobic bullying, then, may have implications for sexual violence outcomes as well. We also observed that victimization of one of these forms of gender-based violence was related to the perpetration of the other form of violence, emphasizing the need to take a whole-person approach in addressing gender-based victimization.