Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 272-284

First online:

Childhood Trauma, Adult Sexual Assault, and Adult Gender Expression among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

  • Keren LehavotAffiliated withVA Puget Sound Health Care SystemDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington Email author 
  • , Yamile MolinaAffiliated withPublic Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • , Jane M. SimoniAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Washington

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Several studies have demonstrated that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to report childhood abuse and adult sexual assault. It is unknown, however, which sexual minority women are most likely to experience such abuse. We recruited adult sexual minority women living in the US through electronic fliers sent to listservs and website groups inviting them to complete an online survey (N = 1,243). We examined differences in both childhood abuse and adult sexual assault by women’s current gender identity (i.e., butch, femme, androgynous, or other) and a continuous measure of gender expression (from butch/masculine to femme/feminine), adjusting for sexual orientation identity, age, education, and income. Results indicated that a more butch/masculine current self-assessment of gender expression, but not gender identity, was associated with more overall reported childhood trauma. Although one aspect of gender expression, a more butch/masculine gender role, was associated with adult sexual assault, feminine appearance and a femme gender identity also significantly predicted adult sexual assault. These findings highlight the significance of gender identity and expression in identifying women at greater risk for various abuse experiences.


Childhood abuse Sexual assault Lesbian Bisexual Gender expression Gender identity Butch/femme