Sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth experience higher rates of sexual violence victimization than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. Very little is known about how the minority status of SGM youth contextualizes their victimization and perpetration experiences. In one-on-one interviews with 39 SGM youth and 11 cisgender heterosexuals (non-SGM) youth, we compared the contextual factors shaping sexual violence victimization and perpetration between the two groups using a qualitative descriptive approach. Interviews highlighted how SGM youth continue to experience extensive discrimination that negatively impacts all aspects of their lives, while non-SGM youth do not discuss having to navigate stigma and discrimination in their lives. SGM youth pointed to a lack of understanding of sexual violence within the SGM community. Both groups believed that SGM perpetration was unlikely: while most SGM and non-SGM youth agreed that sexual violence between youth was a problem, same-gender perpetration was seldom discussed. Unlike their non-SGM counterparts, SGM youth felt that they were targeted because of their sexual and gender identity. SGM youth also felt that they were more vulnerable to sexual violence because of how they physically looked, particularly if their gender expression did not match cis-normative expectations. SGM youth reported facing unique pressures when seeking support as a victim, particularly a fear of being outed or stigmatized as part of the process. They also conveyed that SGM people worried about being treated unfairly if they reported sexual violence to authorities.
Findings suggest that stigma and concerns of discrimination are unique aspects of sexual violence for SGM compared to non-SGM youth. All youth need to have access to sexual violence prevention education that includes SGM and non-SGM youth as both victims and perpetrators to begin addressing these noted disparities in experiences.