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Providing support to a vulnerable population

Sunday, April 17, 2022

April is both Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month. The following article is the first article of a four-week series focusing on raising awareness about sexual assault and child abuse. Two-in-five women and One-in-five men will experience a form of sexual assault in their lifetime.

Many of us may have a loved one in our lives who is transgender — even if we don’t know it. Transgender people are often misunderstood and treated poorly. Up to date statewide and national data is lacking, but the most recent documentation shows that a disproportionate number of vulnerable trans female youth are exploited, trafficked, abused, and murdered. A 2021 study done by the Boston-based Judge Baker Children’s Center found that about a quarter of transgender students in Massachusetts, mainly girls, report having been raped or abused while dating.

Transgender, often seen as ‘trans,’ is a term that broadly describes people whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. There is no one indication based on appearance one can make about transgender people. Even if you think they look like they are trans, trans people don’t look or act a certain way, come from any one background, transition the same, or even have the same experience.

For many LGBTQ+ youth, breaking the news to their caregivers or someone they love is the scariest part of coming out. Acceptance from their loved ones is crucial to trans kids. In fact, research shows that LGBTQ+ adolescents who are supported by their families grow up to be happier and healthier adults. Trans youth without a solid support system are at the highest risk of experiencing sexual abuse and exploitation.

You do not need to be an expert in all things LGBTQ+ to let your loved one know you care. The most important thing is to be present and open. Even if you’re not sure what to say, something as simple as, “I’m here for you. I love you, and I will support you no matter what” can mean the world to your child.

Lives of trans people are full of challenges including discrimination, family rejection, violence, and cultural misunderstandings and misconceptions. Trans people report that the most important part of surviving these challenges and living a happy life is having a loving and supportive community. Your presence in a trans person’s life matters and your support directly contributes to their health, happiness, and wellbeing.

There are many ways to support the transgender community:

•Advocate for LGBTQ+ education to be in schools. Research shows that as young as the age of 4, one way we can begin to support our children is beginning that conversation young to allow kiddos to have the information to decrease bullying and increase acceptance and normality.

•Use gender neutral language.

•Be a trustworthy ally. Listen to them and ask them how you can support and advocate for them and their community.

•Ask for consent. Many trans people end up not coming out to anyone due to fear of hate and discrimination. It is important to get their consent on what information to share with others as well as what pronouns and names to use with other people.

•Lastly, know your own limits as an ally.

While it can be uncomfortable to investigate your own opinions and biases, don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something or need help. It is okay to still be learning at whatever stage or age you are at. It is better to admit mistakes or that you don’t know than to make assumptions or say something that is incorrect or hurtful.

This article was written by Ivey with supervision by Dawn McFadden, LPC-S, PhD, and in collaboration with Holly Cunningham-Kizer, Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center Director of Community Partnerships

HCWC’s advocates are available 24 hours a day through our HELPline (512) 396-HELP and we have a team of licensed counselors to assist youth experiencing abuse. Throughout the month of April, in addition to this article series, we will be sharing content across all our social media platforms as well as participating in community events. Visit our website www.hcwc. org for general information about HCWC and www. for additional educational content.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666