Prejudice against members of sexual minority groups, or heterosexism, is a pervasive part of modern-day society. Partly as a result of oppression and discrimination, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) persons endure an overwhelming amount of harassment, child physical and sexual abuse, and hate-related violence. In addition, research indicates that LGBTIQ individuals are at increased risk for sexual victimization in adulthood, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts; this relationship is more robust for women. Such victimization is psychologically damaging and may leave sexual minorities feeling powerless to control their social environments.
This research project was aimed at answering the following question: What accounts for the difference between sexual victimization rates in heterosexual and sexual minority women? Locus of control (LOC) and methods of coping were tested as possible contributors to this relationship. Current learning theories of stress and coping maintain that the relationship between LOC and coping behavior is cyclical in nature; the outcomes of coping behavior reinforce control expectancies and appraisals of problem-solving ability. In turn, reinforced control expectancies determine the method of coping that will be used in future stressful situations. In the end, coping behavior influences how vulnerable one is to further stressful situations; passive coping techniques are correlated with further victimization.
Consequently, for this study, 154 women completed five online questionnaires to test the hypothesis that LOC and method of coping mediate the relationship between sexual minority status and adult sexual victimization. Data was collected via the Internet for approximately three months. The data was analyzed using hierarchical regression.
The results indicated that, as hypothesized, external LOC was associated with increased sexual victimization. However, in contrast to previous research findings, sexual minority women endorsed more internal LOC than their heterosexual counterparts. In addition, sexual minority status did not predict increased sexual victimization (as was hypothesized and as previous research has shown), and the overall mediated model was not supported. Methodological errors (such as sampling biases), theoretical limitations (such as assumptions with regards to the experience of heterosexism as a constant), and potential protective factors were discussed. Directions for future research were also explored.