Prevention Corner: Addressing Economic Instability to Prevent Sexual Violence Against LGBTQ+ Individuals

Jan 13th, 2022

By Meredith Varsanyi 

Sexual violence against the LGBTQ+ community is a crime with deep economic impacts caused by a multitude of factors including economic insecurity. While sexual violence and economic insecurity affect people of every sexuality and gender, LGBTQ+ individuals uniquely experience both of these issues at alarmingly higher rates than the rest of the population (HRC, n.d.). In order to prevent violence, we must identify the factors contributing to the problem in the first place and implement prevention strategies aimed at reducing those risk factors. Primary prevention efforts have been historically focused on the individual and relationship levels of the social-ecological model. Public health experts and sexual assault preventionists are continually exploring the community and societal factors that contribute to the perpetration of sexual assault, especially in marginalized communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought even more urgency to preventing sexual violence by implementing initiatives at the community and societal level. The CDC’s STOP SV Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Assault recommends implementing strategies to address economic insecurity as an approach to preventing sexual violence (CDC, 2016).

In order to achieve financial security, one must obtain a secure job with a livable wage, however, LGBTQ+ individuals often earn less than their similarly eligible non-LGBTQ peers. For example, transgender people are four times more likely to have an income under $10,000 per year (CAP, 2015). Studies also show that gay men earn 10-32% less than equally qualified heterosexual men (Sears & Mallory, 2011). Researchers accredit the discrepancies in LGBTQ+ wage to gender bias and discrimination in the hiring process (Caruchet, 2018).

Beyond income inequality, LGBTQ+ folks in the workplace experience harassment and discrimination at extremely high rates. Over one in four (29.8%) LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives (Sears & Mallory, 2021). LGBTQ+ employees also report high rates of harassment from employers and co-workers, causing many to leave their jobs and the unhealthy work environment. Job loss and discrimination further harm LGBTQ+ folks by lessening their access to health care, insurance, paid sick leave, and other benefits that are even more critical during a pandemic.

Housing insecurity, discrimination, and homelessness also add to the compounding factors that allow the perpetration of sexual violence. LGBTQ+ people are more vulnerable to being unfairly evicted, denied housing, or refused the ability to rent or buy housing and may need to rely on local homeless shelters for housing. Experiences with shelters can be negative and retraumatizing. Survivors may face homophobic or transphobic treatment from other shelter residents, support group participants, or staff. Within homeless shelters, 55% of transgender people reported harassment and 22% reported sexual assault by staff or residents (WOW, 2013).

Sexual violence and social issues do not occur in a vacuum, therefore prevention efforts must be multidimensional. Community partnerships are crucial to creating effective prevention strategies and enhancing support for the LGBTQ+ population. Rape crisis centers and other sexual assault service providers should identify local LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and local homeless shelters to create a network of referrals for the LGBTQ+ folks they serve. When building partnerships for prevention, best practices recommend the following strategies for community collaboration:

  • Establishing multidisciplinary task forces with a focus on economic justice and sexual violence.
  • Engaging in cross-training with community partners, providing information on the link between economic insecurity and sexual violence.
  • Providing multi-issue prevention programs together, highlighting the intersections of economic insecurity and sexual violence
  • Building support for legislative change, lending support to bills related to LGBTQ+ issues and poverty while highlighting the impact on sexual violence victims and survivors.
  • Developing public awareness campaigns together that focus on positive social norms and alternatives to violence (Greco & Dawgert, 2007).

MCASA has started a new project in collaboration with FreeState Justice, a Maryland-based LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, to implement sexual assault prevention initiatives focused on addressing economic insecurity in the LGBTQ+ community. MCASA and FreeState Justice are currently working to create and strengthen connections between sexual assault service providers and LGBTQ+ organizations across the state. If you are interested in learning more about this project and potential ways to be involved, please email [email protected].



Center for American Progress (CAP). (2015). Paying an Unfair Price - The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2016). Stop SV: A technical package to prevent sexual violence. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

Caruchet, M. (2018, June). The gay pay gap in Washington and impacts of misogyny on LGBT wages. Economic Opportunity Institute. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

Greco, D., & Dawgert, S. (2007). Poverty and Sexual Violence: Building Prevention and Intervention Responses. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) (n.d.). Sexual assault and the LGBTQ community. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

Sears, B & Mallory, C. (2011). Documented evidence of employment discrimination and its effects on LGBT people. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

Sears, B & Mallory, C. (2021). LGBT People’s Experiences of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW). (2013, June). LGBTQ survivors & economic security. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from

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