Although the majority of rapes are committed by men, women do rape. As with sexual assaults committed by men, the perpetrator may be a partner, an acquaintance, or a stranger.
Rape by a woman can happen to any woman, regardless of her sexual orientation. Because of widespread ignorance and denial surrounding sexual assault of women by women, a woman may feel that no one will believe her if she reports what happened.
I kept it to myself because it was an embarrassing thing: I was bigger than she was. When people hear about rape, they think of a man raping a woman. It’s hard to envision one woman raping another.
One woman lived in an off-campus group house where friends of friends passing through town often stayed over:
I set up the sofa bed for [my housemate’s guests] and retired to my own bed in another room. I awoke to find one of the girls on top of me having sex, my body responding and feeling horrified, violated, betrayed by my own body and knowing I would be the only person in the world who would see this as I experienced it, rape.
Fear of not being believed may make many of us reluctant to call a crisis line, go to an emergency room, call the police, or tell our friends. If you are not lesbian or bisexual, you may fear that people will assume you are. A history of bad relations with police keep many LGBT individuals away from seeking legal redress, as does the fear of homophobia and transphobia and having to be “out” in court.
Legally, definitions of rape and sexual assault differ from state to state. Some states define rape as an act perpetrated by a man against a woman. Others use an inclusive definition of sexual assault that does not state the sex of the victim or perpetrator and that lists a range of behaviors such as penetration by object, fingers, or penis.
Everyone deserves respectful assistance. Woman-to-woman sexual assault must be acknowledged so that all women can get the support and assistance they deserve and need.
The following organizations provide support for all women, regardless of your sexual orientation and whether you were assaulted by a woman or a man.
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE.
- National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: The NCAVP, a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), is a coalition of more than forty LGBT victim advocacy and documentation programs. The AVP hotline is available twenty-four hours a day in both English and Spanish and provides emotional and practical support to victims of violence (212-714-1141).
- The Network/La Red: The Network/La Red offers confidential support, information, and referrals in English and Spanish to LGBT partner abuse survivors (617-742-4911).