Since sexual minority women (SMW), particularly bisexuals, report higher rates of sexual victimization (SV) compared to heterosexual women and little is known about SMW’s post-SV outcomes, the current study sought to fill this research gap by using a mixed methods approach.
A community sample of 246 women (88 lesbians, 84 bisexuals, 74 heterosexuals) completed questionnaires and interviews about SV and subsequent disclosure and coping patterns. SMW reported higher rates of childhood sexual abuse, but SV rates in adulthood were similar to heterosexuals. Qualitative interviews revealed insights into women’s SV incidents and the recovery process. Almost all the incidents involved male perpetrators. Of those who disclosed the assault (80 percent) most told friends (84 percent), romantic partners (30 percent), family members (31 percent), and/or therapists (30 percent). The most common reasons for non-disclosure were shame or minimizing the seriousness of the incident. Four broad categories of coping behaviors emerged: avoidance, self-blame, disclosure decisions, awakening, and reaching out. Notably, few sexual identity differences in SV incidents or the recovery process were found. Understanding the impact of SV is critical to informing culturally competent clinical care that addresses the needs of diverse women. (publisher abstract modified)