Impact of Harassment on the Victim

How does harassment have a psychological effect on homosexuals?

Homosexuality has been an issue for people around the world seemingly since the beginning of time. It is a lifestyle that has been debated, unaccepted and stereotyped.But in recent years, society has welcomed more and more homosexuals into its loving arms under the umbrella of civil liberties. It is become increasingly acceptable to be homosexual in society today.1 Investigation made by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute including some surveys, found that there was a high percentage of discrimination against homosexual people. The investigation also stated that homosexual people have reported discrimination in public restaurants, medical facilities, insurance, and also education.2 Due to the investigation results the civil rights bills have introduced into the process that will give particular rights of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation. Now a day as the adult homosexual community increases day by day, there is also an increasing number of homosexual youth in the present day. Results shown by the 1996 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that in over 12,000 teenagers, ages between the 13 and 18, six percent reported same-sex attraction.3 So how does harassment influence a young homosexual psychologically? In order to answer the previous question, we must first deal with issues concerning homosexual discrimination while evaluating facts on the harassment and discrimination that homosexual teenagers have been exposed to and the psychological outcome that this has had on them. Also we must define what sexual orientation is, and study information of how many people in America are homosexual. We must then use the biological perspective to explain the origin of homosexuality. Over the past two decades data supports that there has been discrimination among the homosexual teenagers and that they are regularly being harassed by other people. The different types of harassment that the homosexual people undergo on a daily basis are presented later on in order to discuss the suffering and psychological problems. Along with the explanation of the different types of harassment, studies made present results that suggest that the victims of the harassment had some type of psychological problem. In this paper we are going to examine the impact of the harassment in homosexual people, the explanation on how psychologists view homosexual trauma, including suicide, and the best ways to get rid of discrimination against homosexual students in school are going to be examined.

2. Sexual Orientation:

Sexual orientation is the direction of ones sexual interest toward members of the same (homosexual orientation), opposite (heterosexual orientation), or both sexes (bisexual orientation).4 Homosexual people tend to remind themselves that they were the same as heterosexuals when they were younger, and that it wasnt until during or after they became adults that the majority of them become aware of their homosexual orientation. Most of them didnt announce themselves as homosexuals until they were in their twenties. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the press believed that ten percent of the American population was homosexual, but in 2002, the Gallup survey revealed that an estimated 21 percent of American men are gay and that 22 percent of American women are lesbians.5 Even though knowing the number of homosexuals will not change the civil rights issues, health experts consider that knowing sexual statistics would be very helpful.

3. The Psychology behind Homosexuality:

In general, a variety of biological and behavioral traits of homosexual people are different from those of heterosexual people. There are biological associations of sexual orientations found among brain differences, genetic influences, and prenatal hormonal influences. Now a day investigations propose that sexual orientation is, at least, somehow biological. The British-American neuroscientist, Simon LeVay, discovered while studying dead homosexual and heterosexual people, that some sections of the hypothalamus have a connection with homosexual identity. He established out that hypothalamus cell clusters are larger in straight men than in women and gay men. He also stated that the brain does change with sexual orientation, which is completely supported by the theory that establishes that everything that is psychological is also biological.5

LeVay doesnt see the brain as a sexual orientation organ, but, as an essential part of the neural trail connected in sexual behavior. Later on he confirmed his theory as he discovered a parallel difference between the six and ten percent of sheep that presented homosexual orientation, and the ninety or more percent that presented heterosexual orientation. A discovery made by Laura Allen and Roger Gorski, supported LeVays theory, as it established that the corpus callosum or tough body (located in the brain) is one-third larger in homosexual men than in heterosexuals or females. Through this discovery it has been stated, Homosexual men are more likely to have female-typical neuroanatomy than heterosexual men.5

Another factor that may influence sexual orientation is genetics. Investigations were made in sets of twin homosexual brothers, and the results stated that between identical twins, 52 percent shared the brothers orientation, and 22 percent among fraternal twin brothers. So as a result it was concluded that genetics wasnt the only factor that causes homosexual orientation, but that it is a factor that influences.5

An additional theory that has been stated on why twin brothers share similar sexual orientation is that they share the same prenatal environment. Usually in animals and in some human cases, irregular prenatal hormone conditions have been recognized to alter sexual orientation. Throughout the important period after the middle of the second month and up to the fifth month after formation, the structure of the brain’s neural-hormonal control system have led scientists to structure a hypothesis that states that homosexuals were exposed to unusual prenatal hormones. It has also been proved that contact to the hormone levels inclines the fetus to be attracted to men later in life. Analyses also reveal that homosexual men have spatial abilities more like those of typical heterosexual women. In the case of lesbians it has been shown that they tend to have a more male-typical anatomy. It has been revealed that the hearing system of lesbians build up in a transitional way between those of heterosexual people, due to the fact that there has been some influence from prenatal hormones.5

Dahir Mubarak wrote a magazine article in The Advocate (The U.S. based national gay and lesbian newsmagazine) entitled, Why Are We Gay? which explores whether being gay is influenced by genetics, environment, or biology. He states that, for years, the gay and lesbian political organization has been stating that homosexual orientation is inherited and permanent.6 This has in fact won some few followers to the gay and lesbian civil rights group. The article states, Americans who believe sexual orientation is either genetic or biological are much more likely to support gay and lesbian civil rights than those who believe it is determined primarily by environmental influences.6 Scientists consider that approximately 70 percent of them are influenced genetically to have a homosexual orientation, even though they also think that three percent can influence their sexual operation. Scientists today suppose that homosexual orientation is influenced by genetics, environment, and has biological tendency. Their researches and answers may permit the public to put an end to harassment and discrimination for sexual orientation, if they demonstrate that sexual orientation cannot be manipulated and that it is not only influenced by the environment.

4. The Harassment of Homosexuals:

On a daily basis lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are victims of harassment and violence, for the most part at school. The controversial expressions hate crimes or bias-motivated crimes are frequently used to explain the psychological violence with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender teenagers must deal. These hate crimes were defined by the U.S congress in 1992, as, when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certainsocial group, usually defined byracial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, social status, or political affiliation.7 In the last decade, the punishment for these hate crimes have develop into much harsher punishments, even though it is more probable to refuse a criminal with a death penalty for murder that is associated with hate.

A study was accomplished by Gregory M. Herek, Ph. D, and two of his colleagues, in order to assess the mental health of hate crimes between the years of 1993 and 1996. This investigation was performed on 2300 gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The experiment included more or less an equal number of men and women within an average age of 34 years. The participants were provided a questionnaire about their personal experiences with crime, their attitudes, and beliefs on a diversity of topics, their community participation, and their psychological well being. The researchers found out that hate crimes had more psychological effects than other type of crimes. They researchers also noticed higher levels of pain shown by the gays and lesbians that had survived hate crimes, depression, stress or anger, than those who had survived crimes that were not linked to sexual orientation.8 The researchers accept as true that delicate suffering was caused by the involvement of personal hazard and vulnerability with their identity. Along with causing more suffering, the duration of the suffering caused by hate crimes was discovered to last longer than the suffering caused by crimes that had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Among these discoveries there was the prevalence of hate crimes against homosexuals; the reports of these crimes to any kind of authority were rather fewer than other type of crimes, but the majority of all this type of harassment is not the only kind to which this population is exposed.8

Harassment refers to the broad spectrum of offensive behavior. Behaviors that harassment refers to are found to be menacing or alarming, and further than those that are sanctioned by society. The Journal of Adolescent Health has published a study in order to examine the connection between intolerance at school and mental health risks, by using representative information and comparing lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) teenagers with heterosexual teenagers. The data was taken from the 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given in Massachusetts and Vermont; it included 9188 students, which included 315 students who recognized themselves as either homosexual or bisexual. The studys conclusion stated, The findings supplied evidence that differences in health risks among LGB teenagers are mediated by intolerance in school. Such discrimination of LGB teenagers are associated with health risk behaviors.9 In societies that support free speech, only monotonous, constant and dishonest types of speech are sanctioned legally as harassment. To comprehend, we must make clear the different types of harassment that are important to todays teenagers. The different types of harassment include bullying, gang stalking, psychological harassment, racial harassment, religious harassment, sexual harassment, stalking, and street harassment.

Verbal harassment is the most commonly reported type of harassment, because it contains no boundaries. It is just defined as something that makes a person believe as if he is in menace or that an announcement was taken abusively by the victim. The gay, lesbian, and straight education network (GLSEN) measured the anti-gay harassment found in schools and discovered that 61.1 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students reported being verbally harassed.10 The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published an article that reviews the verbal and physical abuse of homosexual teenagers. The article states, This answer to gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents by significant others in their environment is frequently associated with quite a few challenging outcomes, including school-related problems, runaways, conflict with the law, substance abuse, prostitution, and suicide. Although the causal relationship between these stressors and outcomes has not been scientifically established, there is suggestive evidence that these outcomes are consequences of verbal and physical harassment.11

Bullying is one of the many types of harassment that usually takes place on the playground, in the classroom at school, or in the workplace. Typically physical and psychological harassing behavior is carried out against a certain person. Psychological harassment is degrading or offensive behavior that lowers a persons self-esteem or causes him or her a torture. This type of harassment is primarily seen in the form of verbal comments, actions, or gestures. Also psychological harassment can be expressed in the method of writing, such as on restroom walls in school. Sometimes another type of harassment appears which is the stalking, activity in which an unauthorized following and observing of an individual is done, to an extent that the persons privacy is inappropriately interrupted, and in most cases the victim fears for his own wellbeing.

In March of 2005, UCLA researchers reported the first study that examined everyday school harassment, which was conducted on the 192 sixth grade students. 47 percent of them reported being bullied at least once during the development of the study, while 46 percent said that they had been bullied at least once. This study is in some way helpful because it addresses the psychological problems that these students were left with after being harassed. Juvonen, Mark and Graham Schuster wrote, Students who reported getting picked on also reported increased embarrassment and fury, while students who saw a classmate picked on reported increased concern and disliked school more.12 Adrienne Nishina, Jana Juvonen, and UCLA developmental psychology graduate student Melissa Witwok recently published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Middle school students who are bullied in school are likely to feel depressed, lonely and miserable, which in turn makes them more susceptible to further bullying incidents”12 Because they are different from their school mates, the bullying that homosexual students are subjected to, is considered out of the normal. Homophobia is one of the main reasons the teenagers are often harassed, and homophobia starts early and is often influenced by the adult figures in the childs life. The Institute of Education conducted interviews in 1987, with teachers at schools, and it concluded that 82 percent of teachers are conscious of homophobic bullying, although the school still lacks the attempt to deal with these issues. Homophobic bullying and harassment has been estimated to be the reason of one in five homosexuals attempt to commit suicide or harm themselves. Bullying and harassment are types of disturbance and, therefore, may lead to cause damage to ones health. The warning signs that the victims usually present are the ones that are identified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Aggression and harassment frequently cause the PTSD to be more difficult. Complex PTSD is often untreated because the sufferers of PTSD tend to find it difficult to find any kind of treatment or knowledge of treatment, and, if untreated, PTSD symptoms can last for a lifetime. In homosexual teens today, this seems to be one of the most important issues, because harassment leading up to PTSD, which it commonly does, in most cases prevents people from achieving their goals.13

Sexual harassment is also common among teenagers in educational facilities. In the year 2001, the American Association of University Women conducted an investigation on students in grades 8 to 11, and discovered that 4 out of 5 boys and girls reported some sort of sexual harassment.14 The GLSEN found in a study conducted in 2001 that 46.5 percent reported being sexual harassed. Although the percentage is rather bit smaller, the homosexual community is especially small compared to the total population in the world, and some students may have feared to testify the incidents of being sexually harassed.

Over the past year, a national survey was conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and administered to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) teenagers; and found out that, more than four-fifths of the LGBT teenagers have experienced verbal harassment, and that 42 percent have experienced some kind of sexual harassment. In 1997, an Iowa study found that on an every day average, high school students will hear 25 anti-gay comments. These types of harassment can rise up to physical attacks and even rape. During a five year study finished by the Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State, the researchers documented and stated that there were 111 incidents of anti-gay violence in 73 different schools. This violence included eight gang rapes with students from sixth to eleventh grade. Sexual harassment in America is considered a form of criminal prejudice and it is a form of mental violence. Many victims of psychological harassment go through physical disorders, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, stress, fatigue, depressive states, bum outs, and in some cases, suicide.

5. Suicide, a Result from Harassment:

Gay and lesbian teenagers have increased rates of assault, suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness; these events are a reflection of what homophobic attitudes express by others or may be internalized feelings of self-hatred. Adolescents who have by now decide that they are gay or lesbian can happen to be depressed or act out, and commonly become absent or even run away from home, or they may get to express negative feelings towards the family members. Now a day homosexual teens need assistance managing the effects of the persistent attacks by social institutions on their self-esteem and hopes for a successful career.15

Suicide, although not always the result of sexual harassment, is fatal. Suicide is the act of a human being intentionally causing his or her owndeath16 It seems for a lot of people that gay and lesbian teenagers are in danger of committing suicide because of the sexual harassment throughout their lives. Several state and national studies have revealed that, among homosexual teenagers, there are more thoughts and actual suicide attempts than among heterosexual teenagers. Most of the time psychologists consider suicide as a way to call the attention of people. They also believe that reasons for suicide are not only external but also internal, meaning there is a chemical imbalance. They have not found any relations of suicide of homosexuals due to internal problems. This is important because it strongly suggests that sexual harassment is the major cause of suicide of homosexuals with internal problems. Statistics for homosexual suicide have fluctuated between 30 percent to less than 1 percent. Peter LaBarbera, in an article titled The Gay Youth Suicide Myth, uses statistics provided by Dr. David Shaffer, one of Americas authorities on suicides throughout todays teens.

LaBarbera quotes Dr. Shaffer by saying,

“… by broadening the definition, we therefore ran the risk of overdetermining the number of gay suicides. In spite of this, out of 107 male teen suicides, only three were known to have talked to others about a homosexual experience (2.7%) and two of these three died together in a suicide pact. A further four showed some behavior that could have been indicative of homosexuality. None of the female suicides were thought to have been lesbian. If all of the teenagers who showed any evidence of homosexual behavior were indeed gay, then a total of 6% of the suicides in our study would have been gay. Once again, there is no evidence that a large proportion of suicides are gay, but [6% is] more or less [what] we would expect in the general population”17

In Oklahoma suicide, is the second most common cause of death in people among the ages of 13 and 25, including both sexes and all races. In the year 2003, according to the National Center of Injury Prevention and Control, 76 young adults in Oklahoma committed suicide. Out of that, five were homosexuals. Oklahomas statistics were considered because it is believed to be an enthusiastic and conservative state, considering it was one of the 11 states in November 2004 approving [the] constitutional amendments codifying marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.” Additionally, the state defined it as a misconduct crime to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple.18 Throughout the United States, there were 4620 suicides in the year 2003, and the homosexual community accounted for 277 for all those deaths. Taking into consideration the population of the United States, 277 does not seem like a lot of people, but considering that the homosexual community only makes up 1percent or 2 percent of the whole country, it is quite a few. Suicide rates are significant to examine at in this case, even though it is difficult to do so because sexual orientation is not listed on ones death certificate.

6. Conclusion:

In conclusion, harassment does have an effect on a homosexual individual by making him either feel stressed, afraid of being open with his sexual orientation, or even suicidal. There are all diverse types of harassment that face up to homosexuals, but all result in psychological violence against the individual, and it is essential to note that the reason that homosexuals have psychological difficulties is not because of their homosexuality, but rather than, from the harassment to which they are exposed. One of the psychological results from homosexual harassment is PTSD, which weakens the victim from the pressure of a traumatic occurrence; bullying and sexual harassment can cause this also. The most crucial result from homosexual harassment is suicide. The suicidal teenagers feel that the pressure of the attacks is too challenging and that they cant live with the weight of being homosexual.

Suicide is the result of all types of harassment, including verbal, physical, and sexual harassment, which is the reason that discussing homosexual harassment is so important.

The reason that homosexuals are treated differently is because people are not well-informed about homosexuality. The National Association of School Psychologists recognizes that children who question their sexual orientation are at a greater risk of harmful situations, such as suicide, physical and verbal harassment, and physical violence. These risks usually take place for the child at school, and in their study the NASP concluded that 28% of the students missed at least one day of school as a result of feeling unsafe because they questioned their sexuality. Their suggestions for creating a safe school for sexual minority teenagers include establishing and enforcing non-discrimination policies that apply to all students, educating students and staff, intervening when a student is harassing or being harassed, along with giving that student support. In order for the homosexual youth to feel secure at school, these students need to be incorporated in the non-discrimination policy that most schools have. The students and staff then need to be involved because of all the consequences that may follow the harassment of a homosexual student or peer. The education of students and staff about sexual minority teenagers should include a meticulous in service training on all diversities of human beings, as well as including pertinent research of the risks experienced by homosexual youth. Consequences should be applied to the perpetrators, but psychotherapy should be offered to both the victim and the perpetrator.

Bill Carlson

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