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Assistant Professor Paul Sterzing Launches SpeakOut

New National Study to Examine the Multiple Forms of Violence Experienced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth

Berkeley Social Welfare, UC Berkeley | April 28, 2014

Berkeley, Calif. – Paul Sterzing, a social welfare professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has launched SpeakOut, a three-year study funded by the National Institute of Justice to identify the rate of polyvictimization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth.

Polyvictimized youth experience multiple unique forms of violence, such as being bullied at school, witnessing gang violence in the community, or exposure to domestic violence or physical neglect at home. Polyvictimized youth are at substantially greater risk for mental and behavioral health problems. In fact, the total number of unique forms of violence is a better predictor of individual health outcomes than any single form of victimization, including sexual assault.

“We know that LGBTQ youth are profoundly more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse, parental physical abuse and bullying victimization in comparison to their heterosexual and cisgender peers,” says Sterzing. “Despite this knowledge, no single study has provided a comprehensive examination of the multiple forms of victimization that LGBTQ youth experience each year and across their lifetime.” 

SpeakOut aims to breakdown the silos of victimization research. “For too long researchers having been treating bullying victimization or dating violence or child abuse as if they happen in isolation,” states Sterzing. “This is a serious problem as fragmentation in victimization research obscures the scope and complexity of the problem, while hindering the development of effective prevention policies and interventions.”

Additionally, SpeakOut goes beyond simply looking at rates of polyvictimization and is working to identify the family experiences that may place some LGBTQ youth at greater risk of becoming polyvictimized.  Sterzing states, “LGBTQ youth often grow up in families where they hear negative and rejecting messages about what it means to be gay, lesbian or transgender.”

Overall, SpeakOut will interview approximately 800 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 14 and 19 who are currently enrolled in middle or high school through an online survey. The survey will be advertised on Facebook and LGBTQ youth serving organizations across the country.

Visit speakout.berkeley.edu to take the survey and learn more about participation. 

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Contact: Dr. Paul Sterzing

speakout@berkeley.edu