Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Sexual Assault advocacy programs aim to support LGBTQ+ community

Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Graphic by Kyrié Padberg

A correction has been made to better reflect the views expressed in the story.

College students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community have statistically higher rates of reporting incidences of sexual victimization, according to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, also known as SAAM. During the month of April, individuals across the United States strive to promote awareness about sexual violence prevention and offer support to those who have been impacted.

According to the NISVS survey and SEMO website, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. Twenty-six percent of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.

“Although sexual violence exists within the LGBTQ+ communities, it is also important to understand that lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer people are also targeted for sexual violence based on their sexual orientation, and all people, regardless of sexual orientation, can be targets based on their perceived gender expression,” the SEMO website states. “In these cases, sexual violence is used as a form of control to maintain heterosexism.”

Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence (SEMO-NASV) provides care for adults and children who are survivors of sexual violence. SEMO-NASV is a nonprofit organization that provides forensic care, advocacy, counseling and education for survivors or sexual assault. Their philosophy is “Listening to every voice. Advocating for every heart.”

Development director Alix Gasser started working at SEMO-NASV in 2021 and collaborates with other organizations like Safe House of Southeast Missouri, Cape First Responders and the university to help bring awareness about the resources offered to survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse in Cape Girardeau.

“[SEMO-NASV] knows that those that face any type of a sexually traumatic event can have lifelong repercussions,” Gasser said.

Gasser said the lifelong repercussions can include sleep deprivation, anxiety, fear of leaving the house or of going to work, and issues with intimacy and future sexual relationships or relationships in general.

“A big part of what we do here at SEMO-NASV is we make sure that counseling is involved,” Gasser said. “Counseling can help people through that traumatic process.”

For those who have experienced sexual violence, the opportunity to disclose information to someone such as a friend or counselor is up​ to the individual when they are ready Gasser said.

In 2021, Safe House for Women changed its name to Safe House of Southeast Missouri to reflect inclusiveness. Safe House of Cape Girardeau is a nonprofit, domestic violence agency that provides a safe shelter, 24-hour crisis hotline, case management, education and counseling to individuals who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse. It is a 100% confidential organization.

Safe House of Southeast Missouri executive director Jessica Hill works closely with the university regarding the prevention of sexual assault on campus. Hill said Safe House Cape Girardeau is a resource and support system for all students.

Hill said it is OK to reach out for help; even though it is an uncomfortable process, the resources are always available.

“We really hope that the message comes across that we are here for everybody. It doesn't matter to us at all what kind of relationship you are in, we just want to help,” Hill said.

SEMO offers on-campus resources that are available for all students who have undergone sexual violence.

Graduate assistant for the LGBTQ+ Resource Center Tristan Simmons has been the graduate assistant since 2020 and enjoys being a resource to LGBTQ+ SEMO students.

“I enjoy working with students to help them advocate for themselves. I find that really empowering,” Simmons said. “You’re not a bad person if you are queer; it’s a wonderful, beautiful identity.”

Simmons’ office is located in Room 204 on the second floor of the University Center, the Center for Student Involvement (CSI).

“Consent is about respecting other people as human beings and understanding dignities and rights,” Simmons said. “Sexual assault is a hate-motivated crime. If we are able to foster an environment of respect and acceptance, I think it can go a long way.”

Graphic by Kyrié Padberg