By Diana Whelan, Assistant Editor, Student Health 101

Are LGBTQ college students at higher risk of sexual assault and coercion than the general student population? For many, the answer appears to be yes. What can communities, colleges, and individuals do to prevent assault and help LGBTQ students feel at home?

Preventing sexual assault in LGBTQ student communities by Evan Walker-Wells first ran in Student Health 101 in June 2016. Almost midway through that month, 49 people were killed in a mass shooting attack at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The article resonated broadly with readers, especially in the context of that hate crime. “The article was refreshing and relevant, and I was so glad to see the very real tragedies that occur in this world being addressed,” wrote a US undergraduate. For more feedback from our student readers, see below.

Featured experts: Evan Walker-Wells interviewed a US researcher. Our nontraditional and Canadian editions incorporated input from additional researchers, speaking to Charlotte Ottaway.


—Gabe Murchison, MPH, senior research manager, Human Rights Campaign.
—Corey Flanders, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario
—Martin Blais, PhD, professor, Sexology Department, Université du Québec à Montréal

Many readers said the article inspired them to promote LGBTQ acceptance

“I’m using the tools presented to become more active and do what I can to help the LGBTQ+ community.” (US undergraduate)

“Helping to educate others about the LGBTQ+ community is important and this article helped me learn new ways to talk about it.” (Canadian student)

“Raising awareness for LGBTQ is a great way to get involved, especially after reading this article.” (US undergraduate)

“The article made me want to get involved in helping LGBTQ students survive sexual assault.” (US nontraditional student)

“The article made me realize how everyone can contribute to an open minded and safe environment.” (Canadian student)

“As a victim of sexual assault, the LGBTQ article was important to me and encouraged me to help others.” (US undergraduate)

“I see the benefit in creating specifically LGBTQ safe spaces, especially in the wake of such violence. Establishing a community is so essential for this community for bonding people together and for having resources in case of any violence, sexual and nonsexual.” (US undergraduate)

LGBTQ students’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive 

“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s really lovely to see coverage of issues within our community that are not usually addressed, which then lead to having some interesting conversations among my friends and members of the community.” (Canadian student)

“I’m a demi-gendered male-born person married to a genderfluid female-born person. Your consistent articles about the LGBTQ community are really helpful to my everyday life. Thank you for making a difference.” (Canadian student)

“I liked the explanation of internalized homophobia and transphobia. Being gay, it’s nice to know that there are people on our side.” (US undergraduate)

“I’m bi, and the LGBTQ articles are always appreciated and offer good information that I generally don’t find elsewhere.” (Canadian student)

“It’s a sensitive issue to talk about but the article was 100% on point. I would have liked to see some asexual representation in the article, though.” (Student)

Some readers said they were reaching out directly to LGBTQ friends and allies

“I have LGBTQ friends who I know are often stressed about what people say to them, but they won’t open up or really talk about it. After reading about the possible threats they might face, I’m going to try and get them to talk about their experiences more.” (US undergraduate)

“I texted a friend about the article, as she is applying to work in the social services field, hopefully with LGBTQ youth.” (Canadian student)

“My friend is gay and I showed her the article of the LGBT sexual assault and I feel as though it helped her.” (US undergraduate)

“I found the article helpful because I have friends that are gay who’ve gone through situations where outside knowledge could be helpful.” (US nontraditional student)

“The article stated that some members who are left out, or feel left out in the LGBTQ community, should be influenced or supported in whatever way they feel most comfortable. We need to include, not exclude.” (US undergraduate)

“I have two gay dads but haven’t been very active on campus in the community. This I want to change with the recent tragedy and connecting back to my familial roots.” (US undergraduate)

Many readers said they had been somewhat unaware of the issues

“I didn’t know about the high number of people in the LGBTQ community that are sexually assaulted. It made me more aware of how hard it is for them once they come out as gay, and how much hatred they go through. I wish everyone would show support and love to this community.” (US undergraduate)

“It made me open my eyes greatly. I will now have a strong respect for members of the LGBTQ community.” (US undergraduate)

“The article reminded me that not everyone is tolerant to non-straight sexualities. I will be actively conscious of my own actions and promote equality, sensitivity, and empathy whenever I can.” (Canadian student)

“I have many friends who identify as queer. However, I still feel very uneducated about their culture and the ways to help/bond with them. It’s nice to see more articles that open up doors to people I normally wouldn’t know about.” (US nontraditional student)