#QueerSVAM: What is Sexual Violence?

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, an important time to raise awareness, support survivors, and highlight ways we can end this type of violence. Nationwide, the conversations focus on heterosexual, cisgender survivors, erasing survivors’ experiences across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. Data shows, however, that LGBTQ+ people are often more at risk and report higher instances of sexual violence. At AVP, we work daily to amplify the voices and honor the lived experiences of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence.

For over four decades, AVP has been highlighting these truths. As the only LGBTQ-specific rape crisis center in New York State, one immediate way we do this is by reframing the month as Sexual *Violence* Awareness Month, instead of the mainstream framing of this month as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month”. Sexual violence is any sexual act or attempted act that occurs without full consent. We use the hashtag #QueerSVAM to amplify this conversation on social media.

Sexual violence exists on a spectrum, including physical, verbal, online, emotional, and psychological sexual harm. It is often marked by explicit or implicit coercion and violence. People causing harm through sexual violence can be strangers or people the survivor knows: intimate partners, dates, hook-ups, landlords, neighbors, colleagues, and even family or friends. What makes the experience of LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence unique is that they also face bias, discrimination, and too often, identity-based hate violence in their day-to-day lives, including when they reach out for safety, support, and services. LGBTQ people disproportionately face other forms of oppression – consider the barriers to LGBTQ survivors who are Black, Indigenous, Latine/x, AAPI and/or other people of color, people engaged in the sex trades, currently or formerly incarcerated, low income, living with a disability, and/or are immigrants – due to systems of racial, economic, and gender oppression.

We are determined to build safety for and with our communities. Our trauma-informed anti-oppression approach supports survivors with holistic direct services and engages community to respond to and prevent violence through outreach, community education, and policy advocacy. counseling services support survivors in healing from the trauma of sexual violence. Support groups like BREATHE: Body Reclaiming Empowerment And Transformation through Healing and Education, create mutual aid and support for sexual violence survivors across gender identity and sexual orientation.

Our Client Advocacy Specialists are experts in helping survivors overcome barriers to resources resulting from systemic bias and discrimination, ensuring access to safety, support, and services. AVP’s Legal program provides advice, counsel, and representation for survivors who are complaining witnesses in criminal cases, as well as support with orders of protection and other legal matters.

AVP recognizes that liberation and healing must be collective and include the voices of survivors of trauma on every side of the continuum of harm.  We are the only LGBTQ-specific survivor-support agency in New York State working with survivors who have caused harm through sexual violence. AVP launched a unique 15-week accountability group in 2018 called TRANSFORM, rooted in a rich tradition of transformative and healing justice work led by LGBTQ and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) activists in this country. TRANSFORM was a turnkey moment for AVP in expanding the scope of sexual violence prevention work.  TRANSFORM is now accepting participants in our 2024 cohort beginning later this month to continue building holistic accountable, and lasting safety for each other in the community.

And, of course, our most constant service, our 24/7 Hotline support program continues to build its services and its phenomenal volunteer base! For over 40 years, AVP’s hotline program has trained volunteers and staff to provide crisis intervention support for all forms of violence and specific training that earns them certification by the state as rape crisis advocates. Our volunteers are students, artists, filmmakers, activists, elders, community leaders, people who bring heart, vibrancy and passion for uplifting each other in their dedication to be hotline support every day of the year! AVP specializes in training service providers to create more inclusive and affirming spaces for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence. This includes hospital-based rape crisis centers citywide, medical staff who conduct forensic rape examinations, and campus support programs.

AVP shows up daily for our communities, and we would love you to join us. This month, and throughout the year, make sure to stay connected with AVP @antiviolence across all platforms for information and resources centering LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of sexual violence.


If you’re a survivor, AVP can help

We are here to help you if you have experienced sexual violence in any form. Our team of caring, dedicated professionals are not only well-versed in dealing with survivors of violence but are also connected with or a part of LGBTQ community. Here are the services we offer to survivors, free of charge:

Crisis Counseling: Our staff and volunteer counselors are NYS Rape Crisis certified and can help you with options and resources to begin your healing process

Client Advocacy: Our team works with survivors to navigate support systems and assist survivors with connecting with external resources.

Legal support: Our legal team provides survivors with the necessary legal support to help them while seeking safety and rebuilding lives.

No matter a person’s identity, sexual violence is never the survivor’s fault. If you or someone you know is a survivor, reach out to your local anti-violence project or to AVP’s 24/7, bilingual hotline at (212) 714- 1141, or complete our Report Violence form

Note: Services provided are based on team capacity and begin with consultation through our hotline to assess survivor needs and what AVP can provide.