17 responses

  1. Manawolf
    July 22, 2010

    Perhaps GLBT children are more likely to BE abused, because they do not conform to gender roles.

    But given how terribly skewed the samples appear to be (They want to draw conclusions from a sample of less than 200 GLBT people? REALLY??), I would be reluctant to draw even that conclusion. The data’s bad, end story.

  2. Varburg
    July 22, 2010

    The number of reported sex abuse cases that are same-sex is disproportionate to the number of adults who identify as homosexual (this doesn’t imply that the abusers are gay, there is a good article here that goes into a lot of detail).

    People who have “had a same-sex experience” (which this study lumps into the “gay” category) probably includes straight people who were abused.

  3. Darren
    July 22, 2010

    Wait a minute. I don’t know if I’m misreading this or not, but if “of those reporting sexual abuse/rape, 15% were non-heterosexual”, does that mean 85% WERE heterosexual?? And if so, would that mean that people who are sexually abused are significantly more likely to become heterosexuals?? Gosh, we could twist this tale in all sorts of ways!

    Facetiousness aside, are there any statisticians out there? Was her study sufficiently powered to detect a difference b/w heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals?

  4. Emily K
    July 22, 2010

    Is it catty and shallow to say she makes my gaydar go off? She just does. Maybe it’s the specific photo.

  5. Jimmy
    July 22, 2010

    so can we also expect that all the gay fruit flies and giraffes were sexually abused as well?

  6. grantdale
    July 22, 2010

    Timothy/Jim — I’ll try and locate what I can (if you beat me to it, feel free to send it to my way instead). Wells has published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

    You’ve picked up “something” looks odd, and you’re correct on that score. However, I’ll need to go to the raw data sources to check if it has influenced this report.

    The NZMHS heavily oversampled Maori (2x) and Pacific peoples (4x) deliberately. The results as reported by Wells may be picking up a cultural artefact rather than a true correlation. I don’t know if Wells has analysed for these groups separately etc.

    eg: there may be a higher ability in the survey to find adverse childhoods than a public declaration of non-heterosexuality. (Maori and PP do have much higher rates of adverse childhoods than the general NZ population and, particularly for PP, often very conservative religious backgrounds.)

    And agree, Wells’ language is … archaic.

  7. grantdale
    July 22, 2010

    Timothy: I’m flat out today but I can start you off.

    The NZMHS is often referred to as Te Rau Hinengaro, a search string that probably wouldn’t come immediately to mind for you :)


  8. grantdale
    July 22, 2010
  9. Timothy Kincaid
    July 23, 2010


    ALWAYS happy to have your eyes on a survey or study.

  10. Lymis
    July 23, 2010

    I haven’t read anything about this study, but one thing jumped out at me – beyond all the suspicious thing you’ve already noted.

    And that is that all this is based on self-reporting.

    How much of the data is skewed by people feeling or not feeling that reporting childhood sexual abuse is a safe thing to do?

    I wasn’t abused as a child, but I know that once I got over the hurdle of coming out and telling people I’m gay, there were a lot of other things about me that I could care less or not that people knew about me. My big secret was out, all the little ones were trivial. I had several friends remark about how open I am about things they don’t talk about.

    I wonder if the study isn’t showing that people who have already processed for themselves a sexual identity that is at odds with society (LGBT or in any other non-standard straight sexual lifestyle) are more willing to admit childhood sexual abuse, while people who are in more socially approved sexual lifestyles see admitting it as a higher risk?

    And of course, it completely ignores the possibilities that children who are already learning to be ashamed of themselves and hide things from their parents and peers might be in some ways more likely to be attractive to sexual predators. In other words, that gay kids might attract predators more than straight kids, not that the abuse turned them gay.

  11. Patrick
    July 23, 2010

    grantdale mentioned a possible cultural artifact. This combined with the numbers could also help explain the extremely low percentage of homosexuals in NZ (an assertion which I find odd given the time I spent at the University of Otago). We must remember that in Polynesia it is common for some males to change their gender and become known as fa’afafine (Samoa), fakaleiti (Tonga), mahu (Hawai’i and Tahiti), etc. These individuals are often attracted to and have sex with straight males. However, they do not consider themselves homosexual.

    Thus, there is an inherent flaw if the researcher is using Western categories in a study of sexual orientation that includes Polynesians.

  12. Priya Lynn
    July 23, 2010

    Well done analysis Timothy.

  13. Regan DuCasse
    July 23, 2010

    This site and XGW has the most comprehensive analysis of this subject. You really work hard at being complete, fair and deeply detailed.
    You get to the heart of the subject, without being dense.

    Lymis, your last paragraph says a lot in a nutshell too. And the prevailing studies like this one, leave out that very serious detail that predators ARE attracted to who and what they consider weaker, and more importantly, unable to report the assault.
    Same sex assault, because of anti gay sentiment, carries another level of stigma and shame that a predator obviously will exploit.
    This woman’s sample is very small.
    And, these sample tend to already have questions that enable or set up the researcher’s own bias.
    When you’re not asking the right questions, or are entering a study with already entrenched expectations, you’ll frame your questions around presumptions.

    At any rate, it’s getting old, all these studies and gay people being scrutinized like some alien that dropped out of the sky.

    Research and tests like this, have in the past, required ISOLATION of the test subject and the response based on the legacy of that isolation, rather than being a broader and more random sample.
    Personally, I think full integration of the gay community in the mainstream would reveal a lot more, and inform a lot better than samples like this.
    Especially because they seem to fail to make comparisons with a SIMILAR sample from heterosexuals.

    The link to subsequent dysfunction if any, isn’t orientation, but the abuse itself and it’s imprint. And for how long the abused were unable to unpack it.

    I’m so over this preoccupation with gay lives for every reason BUT full acceptance and leaving well enough alone.

  14. ricky
    July 23, 2010

    i was never sexually abused. does hitting count? my parents knew i was gay by the time i was three. they just liked to beat their kids.

  15. grantdale
    July 23, 2010

    I’ll keep at it, still waiting on the paper, but we’ve run into a Horrid Sample problem almost immediately.

    (You know something’s awry when only 0.25% of your men announce they are bisexual.)

    The survey is detailed, and nuanced, when it comes to questions about mental health and family histories but is rather bald regarding questions about adult sexual identity and previous sexual experience.

    Firstly, the survey data could well suffer from an internal bias, as Lymis mentioned — those responders prepared to honestly answer touchy questions will probably also be prepared to honesty answer other touchy questions. (After admitting your father used to beat the bejeebus out of your mother every other day, how much would you feel a need to hide the fact that you once got drunk and blew your best mate?)

    This is always a problem for such surveys and becomes highly relevant in this case because at least two-thirds of the ‘homosexuals’ were self-declared heterosexuals with same-sex behavioural experience.

    There is no context for this behavioural experience, nor a clue to it’s frequency, among these heterosexuals. I think this is going to be critical to understanding what Wells et al are reporting.

    For all anyone knows, some?/much? could have occurred in coerced circumstances; prison, rape, survival sex on the streets, CSA. Or was some experimentation not repeated. The ‘homosexual experience’ they are referring to may in fact be one and the same childhood abuse that it’s being correlated against. The violence against the child may well be parental violence against the gay child. (Oh wow look… one-to-one relationships for these, amazing!)

    And… adults with poor childhood histories often report any number of out of sync sexual experiences, including coerced ones. Is that what is really being picked up here?

    I suspect we’re going to run into the same interpretive silliness as happened with the “2 million Danish people” study — lots of numbers being crunched and tabulated, but inadequate contextual analysis of what the stats software spits out.

    (Potential lesson from the Danish study: if you want to help ensure your child doesn’t marry someone of the same sex… you need to surround them with cows while they are growing up. Death by Correlation.)

    Time will tell.

  16. Christine
    July 24, 2010

    Any research that claims to be representative of LGBT people is problematic from the start. There simply is no way to get a random sample of a stigmatized group that can then be generalied to the larger population of that group.

  17. ebohlman
    July 24, 2010

    Just pure speculation, but I can see a couple possible causal mechanisms:

    1) Gay kids kicked out of the home, live on the streets and get abused.

    2) Bisexual women abused by men deciding, at least temporarily, not to pursue sexual relationships with men.

    This really reminds me of some of those studies that are ballyhooed as showing that vaccination causes autism; in many of them, it turns out that the control group (unvaccinated or non-autistic) has all kinds of statistically unlikely properties.

Leave a Reply




Back to top
mobile desktop