Skip to main content

Differences in Rape Acknowledgment and Mental Health Outcomes Across Transgender, Nonbinary, and Cisgender Bisexual Youth

Anderson, R.E., Tarasoff, L.A., VanKim, N., & Flanders, C. (2021).

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(13-14) 7717–7739.

Expanded Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to document rates of rape acknowledgment (labeling rape as rape rather than using a minimizing label) and corresponding mental health correlates using the minority stress framework in a sample of youth: specifically including a sample of racially diverse sexual and gender minority young adults. Participants were 245 young adults who identified their sexual orientation as under the bisexual umbrella. Of the participants, 159 (65.2%) identified their gender identity as nonbinary. All participants completed a series of online questionnaires regarding their sexual victimization history, mental health outcomes (depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder), and constructs relevant to minority stress theory (level of outness, internalized bisexual negativity, connection to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning community).

Trans and nonbinary people are at increased vulnerability for all forms of sexual violence (Griner et al., 2020; Rothman et al., 2011; Stotzer, 2009). Indeed, in a study of college students, trans and nonbinary people experienced sexual violence at a rate 2 to 3 times higher than their cisgender peers (Murchison, Boyd, & Pachankis, 2017). Despite this, relatively little is known about their sexual victimization experiences or the rape-related mental health consequences of trans and nonbinary people. The authors of this study were unable to locate any literature regarding rape acknowledgment in either population.

Results of the study found that rape acknowledgment was significantly greater among gender nonbinary participants (79.9%) than among trans and cisgender male participants (17.9%). Lack of rape acknowledgment was associated with increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Outness was significantly associated with greater rape acknowledgment. Despite the highly increased vulnerability for sexual violence among sexual and gender minorities, very little is understood about the mechanisms of this increased vulnerability or their unique needs for recovery. The results of this study strongly suggest the importance of a minority stress framework for understanding this increased vulnerability and for designing sexual violence prevention and recovery interventions for sexual and gender minority populations.

(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above)