According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 21% of GLB youth in Sullivan County reported experiencing sexual dating violence such as coerced sex, and 26% of GLB youth and 23% of Q youth experienced physical dating violence, such as hitting. These percentages of sexual and physical dating violence are much higher than those experienced by students who identify as straight (6%). Almost half (47%) of GLB youth have identified being in a relationship with purposeful hurt or control dynamics. Additionally, 65% of LGB youth report their own mental health to be “not good” always or most of the time. And 34% of GLB youth report being sworn at, insulted, or put down by adults in their homes – more than double the percentage of straight youth (14%).
June is PRIDE month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York. This month intends to not only celebrate the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual +) community, but also to recognize and raise awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community and its struggles. No one deserves physical or sexual violence for the way they identify themselves.
How can we change the narrative and support youth in Sullivan County who identify as LGBTQIA+? To start, we can form supportive networks for all youth–regardless of gender or sexual identity. Community partners, families, and other groups can help youth who are navigating complex relationships by reinforcing healthy relationship skills (empathy, respect, boundaries). The greatest protective factor in the mental health of youth is strong, healthy relationships with trusted adults. Be a trusted adult for LGBTQIA+ youth in your life. Talk to them about their relationships, including friendships.
Take for example Darlene, who waited until she was 23 before coming out to her mother. She had seen what happened to gay friends of hers when their parents learned of their sexual orientation. Reactions ranged from anger and denial, to being thrown out of the house. I just can’t survive if they reject me, she thought. Fortunately for Darlene, when she broke the news, her mother’s reaction surprised her. “We’ll love,” she simply said, “who you love.” This can make a critical difference in a person’s life.
If you (or someone you know) are experiencing sexual or physical abuse, call or text us at Turning Points Network. We are here to listen and to help. You will find safety and respect as you explore your options.
OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing, and hope. Programs that prevent abuse in children are supported by Steppin’ Up to End Violence 5K Walk & Run on April 29. We hope you will join us. For information contact 1.800.639.3130 or www.turningpointsnetwork.org or find us on Facebook.