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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Raise Your Voice: College hosts panel on sexual violence in LGBTQ+ community

On Tuesday, Saint Mary’s Rice Commons was busy all day with various talks and workshops as the Raise Your Voice Symposium continued. Right before the lunch break, a panel called “Cause and Effect: Mitigating the Impact of Sexual Assault & Violence Against the LGBTQ+ Community” was held. 

The speakers at this event were Meghan Buell, Sara Sage and Kelly Faust. 

Meghan Buell, Sara Sage and Kelley Faust speak on sexual violence in LGBTQ+ community during the Raise Your Voice symposium
Meghan Buell, Sara Sage and Kelly Faust speak on sexual violence in LGBTQ+ community during the Raise Your Voice symposium.

Buell is the founder and president of Transgender Resource, Education & Enrichment Services (TREES). Buell spent most of the presentation discussing her experiences as a transgender woman and her experiences in running services catered to transgender persons. 

“Thinking about trans experiences and how society has set up a lot of barriers, we need to think about the hierarchy of needs,” she explained. She listed needs in this hierarchy as things such as food, safety and shelter. “Violence comes in when you have to trade one of those hierarchies.”

Buell also discussed myths about the LGBTQ+ community, especially when it comes to sexual violence.

“I’ve heard a lot of queer people say ‘I deserve this harm because I am different,’” she said. 

Faust spoke next about her experience teaching criminology and gender/feminism.

“I teach a class called Gender and Law, where we spend a lot of time looking at violence against LGBTQ+ members," she said. 

Faust discussed how often cases of sexual violence in the LGBTQ+ community go unreported because people feel like they don’t have a support system they can trust. 

Sage ended the presentation portion of the panel by talking about her experience as a therapist.

“A lot of my clients have experienced sexual violence, harassment and micro-aggression,” she said. “A lot of clients don’t identify what they’ve experienced as sexual abuse until they’ve talked to someone. I had clients for years before they disclose sexual violence.”

Sage also talked about reasons sexual violence may occur.

She said, “I do think one of the root problems is misogyny, which is hate of women and feminization.” 

Following the panelists' presentation, the floor was opened for an audience question and answer session. 

With Faust and Buell both identifying themselves as survivors of sexual violence, they answered questions about what support and resources they believed to be most beneficial. Faust said her personal support system was helpful and being around other survivors was important for her. 

Additionally, Faust said that when someone comes to you with their story, “Don’t try to fix things, they just want to be heard.”

Buell said that it took a long time to come to terms with her assault.

“It took me years after the incident before it dawned on me that it was an assault,” she said. “I thought it just was this way and it wasn’t until I heard other people’s stories and related it to my own.” 

The panelists also answered questions about resources and accessibility, especially related to the healthcare field. Sage talked about how things such as patient intake forms, which often have limited boxes for people to check for their gender identity, “are a sign if I’m going to be welcomed.”

Sage also shared a story about her experience and struggle as a lesbian trying to gain healthcare advice.

She said, “I asked my white, cis-gender, female doctor about ways to have safe sex and she said ‘Let me think about that for a minute... I think you’ll be fine’ and I was just like ‘WTF.’”

Buell ended the session by answering questions about TREES and the services they provide. The Tree House is a community center in South Bend run by TREES.