Survivors – Thrive! [CW: SA/DV]

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Ten years ago, I was drugged and raped right here in my own community. While this was not the first time I was raped by someone in our community, it was the first time I sought help. In my journey to find support and treatment, I kept bumping into the lack of LGBTQ culturally competent care. Some service encounters were even blatantly homophobic. As I began to share my story with friends, family, and community, I heard from far too many who had also endured similar experiences of being drugged, sexually assaulted, and a lack of compassionate, competent care. We banded together.

What started as a small group of queer, bisexual, gay, and nonbinary community members bonding through shared trauma, grew into the LGBTQIA+ Survivor Task Force as we attempted to bring better, more culturally competent care to our community. The group has hosted online and in-person conferences and workshops, helped to tell the stories of LGBTQ survivors on social media and news outlets, advocated for policy reform, and helped provide LGBTQ and trauma-informed care training to regional service providers.

Studies show that nationwide, approximately 40% of gay men and half of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence, compared to 20% of heterosexual men. 75% percent of bisexual women and 44% of lesbians have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. 47% of our transgender siblings and 55% of all non-binary people experience sexual assault in their lifetimes.

While we know LGBTQ people are already more susceptible to intimate partner violence, COVID-19’s economic and isolation impacts on our community had a disproportionate impact. As we continue to navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, the unintended consequences of the essential public health stay-at-home orders were LGBTQ people, and youth, in particular, were at greater risk of sexual violence and human trafficking, making the work of these incredible community members that much more vital.

This year, we are excited to announce our new 2023 Virtual Training for Service Providers: Sexual and Relationship Violence in LGBTQIA+ Communities. Register to gain access to our 1-hour virtual training course for service providers to better support LGBTQIA+ survivors by learning how sexual and relationship violence impacts the community and strategies for providing trauma-informed and culturally responsive care. You can also follow the Task Force on Instagram for more educational information and resources.

I never could have imagined doing this work, and yet I’m constantly inspired by this program built by and for LGBTQ+ survivors which continues to grow thanks to our incredible community partners and volunteers. It’s further proof that our community can take even the most toxic and traumatic of situations, work together, and make something beautiful and healing. We mend as we are mended, so ultimately we can Thrive!

With Pride,

Fernando Z. López
Pronouns: they/them/theirs
Executive Director
San Diego Pride


About Fernando

Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.