Nav: Home

LGBT migrants persecuted because of sexual orientation, gender identity before immigrating

December 16, 2015

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) migrants who obtained refuge or asylum in the U.S. or Canada on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity report extensive recollections of abuse by parents and caregivers, peers and school personnel, according to a new Rutgers study.

This is first empirical study to explore early abuse experiences of migrants who fled persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The new study by Edward Alessi, assistant professor at Rutgers School of Social Work, in Child Abuse & Neglect, published Nov. 24, 2015, supports that what many studies of the LGBT community have found; LGBT children and youth are likely to experience abuse that contributes to a host of mental problems, including depression, anxiety and traumatic stress as well as suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Findings indicate that participants experienced severe and prolonged verbal, physical and sexual abuse throughout childhood and adolescence and that abuse occurred at home, in school and in the community. Furthermore, there were few or no resources or protections available to them.

An analysis of 26 interviews with individuals who obtained refugee/asylee status in the U.S. or Canada based on sexual orientation or gender identify was conducted with participants from Barbados, Belarus, Jamaica, Iran, Kenya, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Trinidad, Uganda, Ukraine and Venezuela.

"The findings suggest that compared to what we already know about LGBT youth in the U.S., children and youth in these countries have fewer support system resources, which impacts their resiliency. Also, unlike youth in the U.S. and Canada who can choose to move to a more tolerant region, movement is moving to another part of the country does not help because of laws and policies that make escaping severe homophobia and transphobia difficult," says Alessi.

The study found that from a young age, participants incurred negative reactions from parents and family members for transgressing gender norms by their manner of speaking and dressing, their choice of recreational activities, friends and sexual partners. These transgressions became a major source of conflict with caregivers.

Participants recounted episodes of severe verbal and physical abuse that began in childhood, for some as early as 5 years old.

As participants entered puberty, family members devised strategies for enforcing change, especially for those whose parents discovered their same-sex attractions. It was common for family members to tell participants to pray, read the Bible or meet with clergy members in order to 'cure' them, Alessi reports.

Participants also described a range of abuses by peers, teachers and school administrators. All but four participants reported abuse by peers and/or school personnel for being perceived as lesbian or gay. Victimization began in primary school and continued through high school. Some transferred schools, while others eventually dropped out because the abuse was so severe.

"When victimization occurred at the hands of peers or teachers, some participants could not rely on their parents to protect them. Many parents believed that participants had brought the abuse upon themselves because of their gender non-conformity. Additionally, they had nowhere to turn since parents and family members perpetrated the abuse as well," said Alessi.

Participants reported that they began to experience psychological distress in childhood and that it continued into adulthood. They described experiences of depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress prior to migration. Many internalized negative messages, which contributed to the belief that they were "defective, sick, or demonically possessed."

Preliminary evidence from this study suggests that repeated exposure to traumatic events in childhood and adolescence might place LGBT forced migrants at risk for developing serious mental health problems, including complex trauma syndromes. Alessi hopes that this study will help to enforce existing international policies that protect LGBT children and youth and contribute to finding appropriate mental health services for these forced migrants.

Despite the bleak picture of lives before migration, Alessi reports that participants also manifested extraordinary levels of resilience.

"To deal with their situations during childhood and adolescence, many immersed themselves in their studies and therefore excelled academically. Furthermore, seeking refuge or asylum should be considered an act of resilience in and of itself," he adds.
-end-
This study was supported by funding from The Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs (GAIA Centers).

Rutgers University

Related Abuse Articles:

Digital dating abuse especially bad for girls
Teens expect to experience some digital forms of abuse in dating, but girls may be suffering more severe emotional consequences than boys, according to a new study.
Pinning down abuse on Google maps
A partnership between computer scientists at the University of California San Diego and Google has allowed the search giant to reduce by 70 percent fraudulent business listings in Google Maps.
Abuse accelerates puberty in children
While it has long been known that maltreatment can affect a child's psychological development, new Penn State research indicates that the stress of abuse can impact the physical growth and maturation of adolescents as well.
Elder abuse under-identified in US emergency departments
In a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers used a nationally-representative dataset to estimate the frequency with which emergency providers make a formal diagnosis of elder abuse.
The most prolific perpetrators of elder abuse may be living among them
Researchers studying the prevalence of resident-to-resident mistreatment in nursing homes found that at least one in five elderly residents had experienced some form of verbal or physical mistreatment from other residents during a one-month surveillance period.
How to spot elder abuse and neglect in the ER: Things are not always as they seem
When older adults in severely debilitated states show up for treatment in the emergency department, emergency physicians and staff must be able to identify and document their symptoms and decide whether to report their concerns to adult protective services.
New effects of ketamine abuse uncovered
Research conducted by scientists at the University of York has revealed how recreational ketamine abuse damages the bladder.
Being bullied does not lead to higher substance abuse
The research by three criminologists in UT Dallas' School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences discovered that students who were bullied in third grade did not have a greater risk of using drugs or alcohol by ninth grade.
Rate of abuse in organizations serving youth
The rate of abuse among children and adolescents by individuals in organizations that serve youth, including schools and recreational groups, was small compared with rates of abuse by family members and other adults, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Involvement in traditional dating abuse increases chances of cyberdating abuse in teens
New findings from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston revealed that teens who are involved in dating abuse -- as either the perpetrator or the victim -- are more likely to also be involved in cyberdating abuse.

Related Abuse Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Moving Forward
When the life you've built slips out of your grasp, you're often told it's best to move on. But is that true? Instead of forgetting the past, TED speakers describe how we can move forward with it. Guests include writers Nora McInerny and Suleika Jaouad, and human rights advocate Lindy Lou Isonhood.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...