How LGBTQ abuse victims differ from straight victims

James Clark talks about extending victim services to LGBTQ community. He founded Victim Rights Center of Connecticut, the only non-profit in the State of Connecticut providing no-fee, victim-centered, legal representation to victims of violent crime, in July 2013. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Rainbow Center held a presentation on Wednesday to explain some of the lesser-known differences between abuse toward both straight and LGBTQ people.

Victim Rights Center of Connecticut Executive Director James Clark gave his presentation titled, “Avoiding One More Exclusion: Extending Victim Services to the LGBTQ Community” as a part of the Out to Lunch Gender, Sexuality and Community lecture and discussion series.

Clark went over what his organization does to help victims of abuse. Helping LGBTQ individuals has been part of its mission statement from the beginning. They also help victims of sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and other types of abuse.

The audience was encouraged to think of circumstances and examples in which sexual abuse and its reporting is different for LGBTQ individuals. For example, some abusers control their partners by threatening to out them if they had not already been out. For straight people, this situation is not considered.

Clark and his center have represented victims for free from all over Connecticut in various positions and circumstances. He used real (unnamed) people from his cases to make the points he was touching on clearer.

For example, he mentioned a gay Yale student who reported a circumstance of sexual abuse. Clark explained that sometimes colleges are at odds with the police force. Although the Yale police arrested and convicted the man’s offender for sexual assault, Yale classified it as an act of “interpersonal violence.”

“The entire focus of Yale, and many elite schools, is that ‘we don’t want the numbers,’” Clark said.

Clark was familiar with Connecticut colleges and their Title IX forces. He mentioned the Title IX lawsuit UConn faced three years ago and how university officials handle reporting sexual assaults. Sometimes higher numbers of sexual assault cases are not necessarily a bad thing because it means victims feel comfortable reporting, Clark said. UConn was an example of this.

Deborah Redshaw from the Office of Institutional Equity was in the audience and shared some resources for reporting abuse. She noted how there are different resources for someone who wants to report and persecute their abuser, while others simply want a person to talk to with whom they feel comfortable.

Clark explained that the center tries to be victim-focused and trauma-informed.  Clark has taught about the neurobiological responses to trauma. The brain automatically and without choice shuts off and logic and reason fail.

“So when people ask victims, ‘what were you thinking?’ the answer is ‘I wasn’t,’” Clark said. “We let clients know that they’re not weird.”

Lincoln Lau, an eighth-semester Consumer Behavior student said he found it troubling how some people are not supportive of different sexualities.

“You might ask for help and support in a time of need, but it turns out you might get hurt even more,” Lau said. “It was interesting to know that certain schools in Connecticut are more supportive than others.”


Claire Galvin  is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus.   She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.