Today is International Day to End Violence Against Women and whilst we must tirelessly campaign to end violence against all women it is important to consider how particularly bisexual women are disproportionately impacted by such violence.
A Centre for Disease Control, CDC report from 2013 found that 46.1% of bisexual women have been forcibly raped, in comparison to 14.7% of straight women. In 2008, Stonewall found that one in four lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic violence in a relationship. With 49.3% of bi women experiencing severe physical intimate violence.
We cannot and must not ignore the different rates of violence between sexualities as they speak to the root causes of violence against all women. The disproportionate violence experienced by bisexual women would suggest that it is often the objectification and sexualisation of women that is the root cause of the violence used against us. As we know, the objectification and sexualisation of women is a problem that goes beyond the boundaries of sexuality, it is something many different types of women experience. However, bisexual women tend to be hyper-sexualised, in that they are viewed and portrayed to be promiscuous and unfaithful.
Consequences of this then lead to men viewing bisexual women as sexual objects, whose sole purpose is satisfy them and their desires. This makes it much easier to justify sexual violence against us. Victim blaming narratives then become prevalent suggesting a woman's previous sexual experiences have some weight on whether she has been sexually assaulted or raped. As can be seen in the recent Ched Evans case in which the testimonies of previous sexual partners of the survivor were accepted as evidence.
Bisexual women are more likely to suffer from this victim blaming narrative as their sexuality plays into the idea that they are promiscuous. Stonewall found that one in ten bisexual women had their sexuality used against them by a violent partner. The media portrayal of Amber Heard's case against now ex-husband Johnny Depp earlier this year shed light on this narrative. Most of the mainstream media portrayed Heard to be somehow deserving of the abuse because her sexuality had lead to Depp's jealousy which in turn was to blame for the violence. The medias choice to portray the situation in such a way will have come as no surprise to many bisexual women who have been subject to violence, as they may well have experienced this toxic narrative from the police and other parts of our justice system, or indeed their own partners.
Other stereotypes about bi women also contribute to these high rates, the idea that we 'pretend' to be Bi can frame sexual assault and rape in such a way that suggests these appalling acts are 'attention' that we want to receive. It is not uncommon for abusive partners to use bi-phobia to carry out sexual violence against their partners.
The plight for bisexual women doesn't end there - we also have the lowest rates of support after disclosing an incident. Some of this comes from being excluded from the LGBT+ communities themselves and problems addressing misogyny and rape within them but also counselling services can be ill-equipped to deal with bisexual women survivors.
If women do decide to seek support through counselling or a support service it should be in an environment that you feel safe in and at a rate that is suitable. There are also specific services which specialise in support for lesbian and Bi women.
Broken Rainbow National charity offering support to LGBT people affected by domestic violence or abuse.
Helpline: 0300 999 5428 (from mobiles) or 0800 999 5428 (from a landline)
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
Helpline: 0845 3 30 30 30
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