Barriers to seeking help

There are many complexities around help-seeking, disclosure, and reporting sexual violence for LGBTQ+ people, and this can be more complex for people who experience multiple marginalisation’s (e.g., heterosexual trans women, bi+ men of colour, etc.). 

Cisgenderism and heteronormativity often erases queer and trans experiences of sexual violence. This means some LGBTQ+ people do not realise that they’ve experienced sexual violence because it does not look like a cisgender heterosexual man sexually abusing or harassing a cisgender heterosexual woman. This also can make LGBTQ+ people feel our experiences are not valid or will not be believed if reported or disclosed.  

Some other common barriers to seeking help: 

  • the abuser told me that I would not be believed if I told anyone 
  • the abuser might be popular or seen as a good person 
  • my status (e.g., I don’t get along with everyone in the scene, and some people will probably think I am lying or deserved it) 
  • I am not ‘out’ about my gender/sexuality/interests 
  • the abuser was my friend/partner/family member, and I don’t want them to get in trouble with the law 
  • I am afraid the abuser will punish me if I tell 
  • where I was when it happened could get me in trouble 
  • maybe I deserved it 
  • I was using drugs when it happened 
  • the abuser is still threatening me 
  • I was/am in an intimate relationship when I was sexually assaulted 
  • I do not remember the details (e.g., where I was or who the abuser was) 
  • I was doing sex work, and nobody would help a sex worker in this situation 
  • I did not say “stop” out loud or fight back 
  • I froze when it happened 
  • I don’t trust the police  
  • I have a criminal record 
  • Nothing happened last time so why bother? 
  • my assault wasn’t that bad, other people’s assault is way worse 
  • it has happened before 
  • the abuser said I enjoyed/wanted/asked for it (or any variation on these words/phrases); 
  • the abuser is a friend, and I don’t want to lose or hurt a friend 
  • the abuser is my boss at work, and I don’t want to lose my job or promotion 
  • it was at a party, and everyone was drunk
  • I have no physical injuries, so it doesn’t matter 
  • the assault was my fault 
  • I don’t want people to know because they will look at me differently 
  • I have heard bad stories about other people’s experiences when they tried to tell 
  • It happened years ago 

It’s important to remember that different intersections of identity can affect the way someone experiences and views the world, which may be different to the way you experience and view the world. Victim-survivors know what is best for their own healing journey.  

For information about how you can support someone who is experiencing these barriers, visit the Recognise, Respond and Recover sections of this toolkit.


If reading this content has caused you distress, or made you think you may need support, you can find an LGBTQ+ affirming service here. 

Click here to go back to the home page of this toolkit.


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