Research News

RIA researchers to study sexual assault among lesbian, bisexual women

By CATHY WILDE

Published April 16, 2015

Amy Hequembourg
“Our justice system often inadequately responds to the unique needs of lesbian and bisexual women who experience sexual assault.”
Amy Hequembourg, senior research scientist
Research Institute on Addictions

UB’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) has received a grant from the National Institute of Justice to examine the experience of sexual assault among lesbian and bisexual women compared to heterosexual women.

The three-year study will be led by Amy Hequembourg, RIA senior research scientist.

“The limited studies available suggest the prevalence of sexual assault among sexual minority women is higher compared to rates among heterosexual women,” Hequembourg says. “Yet we don’t fully understand the reasons for this, and our justice system often inadequately responds to the unique needs of lesbian and bisexual women who experience sexual assault.”

Previous research has shown that experiences of bias and stigma contribute to lower rates of sexual assault reporting by lesbian and bisexual women, resulting in victims with unmet needs, along with fewer criminal prosecutions of perpetrators.

“This study will systematically examine the risks for assault among sexual minority women, the characteristics of their assaults and their post-assault experiences,” Hequembourg says.

“Our goal is to provide insights that will help criminal justice systems, including law enforcement, victim services and anti-violence programs, develop new policies and procedures that improve responses to these vulnerable women’s needs.”

Co-investigators on the study are Jennifer Livingston and Jaye Derrick, RIA senior research scientists, and R. Lorraine Collins, associate dean for research, School of Public Health and Health Professions.