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More Childhood Trauma Reported by Some Types of Lesbian, Bisexual Women

Lesbian, Bisexual Women More Likely to Suffer AbuseA new study finds that adult lesbian and bisexual women who are more “butch” (or masculine) report more abuse in childhood — especially with physical and emotional neglect.

Keren Lehavot, Ph.D. and her collaborators also found that women who identify as “femme” (or feminine) and have a more feminine appearance report more adult sexual assaults.

“The purpose of our study was to shed light on the ways in which gender expression and identity among lesbian and bisexual women might be associated with experiences of abuse, in an effort to provide awareness, resources and support,” Lehavot told Psych Central.

Researchers do not fully understand why sexual minority women are at greater risk of being abused both as children and adults compared to heterosexual women.

Lehavot’s team reviewed data from the Rainbow Women’s Project in the U.S. — a national, web-based survey of adult women who identify as lesbian/gay and bisexual.

From this review researchers examined whether reported experiences of childhood abuse and adult sexual assault differed among sexual minority women of varying gender identity (butch, femme, androgynous, or other) and gender expression (more butch/masculine vs. more femme/feminine).

As part of the research, an anonymous Internet survey posted on various listservs and website groups. A total of 1,243 adult sexual minority women completed the survey informing researchers on self-perceptions of gender identity.

From the survey, researchers learned that 40 percent of participants identified with the term “femme” and 15 percent with the term “butch.”

“The sexual minority women in our sample reported high rates of childhood abuse and neglect and adult sexual assault,” noted Lehavot. “Women who described themselves as more butch reported significantly greater childhood emotional and physical neglect.

“Those who identified themselves as more femme reported significantly more forced adult sex. Given the gravity of this widespread problem, identifying the most vulnerable among this group is critical.

“Clinicians and providers working with sexual minorities should consider the role of gender identity and expression in targeted assessments and interventions.”

The work is published online in the journal Sex Roles.

Source: Springer

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the current research with certain findings of previous research. Previous research, but not the current study, has found that lesbian and bisexual women tend to report greater rates of abuse than heterosexual women.

Lesbian couple photo by shutterstock.

More Childhood Trauma Reported by Some Types of Lesbian, Bisexual Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). More Childhood Trauma Reported by Some Types of Lesbian, Bisexual Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Jun 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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