Child abuse and neglect can happen to anyone, but it’s crucial to recognize the LGBTQIA+ youth are disproportionally impacted.
- A 2022 study found that gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer individuals had higher rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including emotional and sexual abuse.
- In a survey of transgender adults, 73% reported they experienced psychological abuse as a child; 39% reported physical abuse, and 19% reported sexual abuse.
While these numbers may feel daunting, it’s a reminder of how important it is – now more than ever – to support the LGBTQIA+ community, including children and adult survivors of abuse. It is also paramount to celebrate resiliency, living authentically, and using our stories to make an impact.
In the spirit of Pride Month and amplifying LGBTQIA+ voices, we asked Alli Meyerhardt, Executive Director and Founder of Breaking Silence, to share her story.
“Community is How We Heal”
We all carry multiple identities with us. Over the years, my journey has been one of trying to find a way to harmonize all the sides of me that sometimes felt at odds. I told my story as a survivor when I was 13 and I came out as gay when I was 16.
As I was moving through my trauma of childhood sexual abuse, I started to convince myself that my queerness was a symptom of the abuse, not a true identity. It was simply another coping mechanism that had to be dealt with, not to be given space to grow. This misguided conclusion made me push my sexuality down and led to many years of living outside of my truth, hurting myself and others in the process.
There is no right or wrong path on our journey of finding who we are. It all matters, and it is all important. I share this side because I think that so much of the time, we isolate certain parts of ourselves that we want to believe can be “fixed.” There is nothing to fix when it comes to living as you are. I knew that I was being sexually abused when I was 12, and I knew that I was attracted to women from the moment I began to understand what attraction meant. This truth has never changed no matter how often I have tried to deny it or “fix” it.
Today at the age of 33, I stand fully in the sun holding the two identities that I fought for over decades. I am a proud queer person AND someone who survived sexual abuse. So, this June, I am celebrating both identities in the hope that it will open peoples’ hearts and minds to knowing that we get to live exactly as we are. We all deserve to be believed and be trusted with the fact that we know who we are better than anyone else ever will.
During Pride Month, we get the opportunity to create space for us all to honor what it means to live the queer experience. We get to revel in the love we feel for one another while collectively sharing our stories. We get to have conversations around the work that has been done, the people who have paved the way forward, and the long road that is still ahead. Our greatest strength is our ability to come together and share in it as a community.
Community is how we heal, find peace, and know that we are not alone. Pride is a revolution of self as much as it is a revolution of the collective. It welcomes us into such caring and joyous moments, that at times, you can feel our souls burst into diamonds. This community has given me the ability to face other pains and to lean into knowing that what we all deserve is bountiful love.
Alli Meyerhardt is the Executive Director and Founder of Breaking Silence, A nonprofit that uses an interactive exhibit showcasing the stories of survivors to prevent sexual and domestic violence.