Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Victimization in the Military

Burks, D. J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual victimization in the military: An unintended consequence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? American Psychologist, 66(7), 604-613.

According to Burks (2011), the provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) have made it challenging to study its effects. DADT (December 1993 – September 2011) barred openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals from military service while at the same time requiring that military officials not initiate investigations of a servicemember’s sexual orientation without sufficient evidence that he or she has engaged in homosexual behavior. Thus participating in research on DADT would put LGB servicemembers at risk of military discharge. Because of the lack of systematic studies of rates or prevalence of victimization of LGB military personnel in peer-reviewed journals, the author relied on government issued reports that were based on anonymous surveys of LGB military personnel. These sources indicated that 37% of military personnel surveyed had witnessed or experienced harassment or violence based on the perception that the victim was gay or lesbian. In addition, nearly half of LGB servicemembers had had at least one experience of verbal, physical, or sexual assault. Based on the association between stigmatization and anti-gay violence in the research literature, Burks suggested that DADT likely increased heterosexism and thus LGB victimization, and reduced victim reports and help seeking.

Making Connections

Sexual assault
Sexual orientation
Sexual prejudice

Media Supplement

This site provides a variety of resources to accompany the HBO documentary, The Strange History of Don't Ask Don't Tell.