Study reveals LGBT students face unprecedented violence in high schools nationwide

LGBT high schoolers are three times more likely to have been raped than their straight classmates, according to the first nationwide study on the health risks faced by queer youth.

The new Centres for Disease Control study, which asked high school students about their sexuality, found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are at far greater risk for physical and sexual violence, bullying, suicide, and other threats to their health than their straight peers.

While it is known that LGBT teens live a harder life because of pressures from parents and peers, previous studies have found LGBT youth are more likely to attempt suicide, to be homeless, and to use drugs.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin with the CDC told United Press International the report is “alarming” and “heartbreaking.”

It is the first time the federal government’s bi-annual Youth Risk Behaviour Survey looked at sexual identity, The New York Times reported. The survey found that about 8 per cent of the entire US high school population describe themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, which amounts to about 1.3 million students.

More than 40 per cent of these teenagers have seriously considered suicide in the last year and nearly 30 per cent have attempted it. The numbers for straight students are 15 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively, the report noted.

About 18 per cent of queer students have been forced to have sex, compared to about 5 per cent of straight peers. Bisexual and gay students are twice as likely to have experienced both physical and sexual dating violence.

Among the survey’s participants, more than 60 per cent of LGBT respondents reported being sad or hopeless, according to the report.

They’re also twice as likely to have been bullied — threatened or injured with a weapon on school property and, accordingly, more than one in 10 have skipped school because they felt unsafe, which researchers report can have longer-term impacts on graduation rates and post-high school success.

In addition, queer teens are five times more likely to inject drugs and four times more likely to try harder drugs like meth and heroin. People in the LGBT community tend to use more drugs to cope with discrimination and prejudice, according to a previous report by Center for American Progress.

“Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, told The New York Times. “Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”

While the study does not delve into why these students are at such risk, Dr. Deb Hourly, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told the Verge that the lack of a supportive network and not being perceived as either masculine or feminine enough could be one of the many factors that put youth at risk for violence.

Hourly added that the data in the report will spur more comprehensive intervention and prevention programs for queer students, with the goal of broadening access to mental health resources.

Read the full report from the CDC here

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