Rape is a common experience in both heterosexual and lesbian women. Like heterosexual women, lesbian women also experience rape trauma syndrome following a rape. However, for many lesbians, it is very difficult to assimilate the experience of rape into their own self-image (Orzek, 1988). Many lesbians may also be “feminist-identified” in most areas of their lives, and the rape may force them to reexamine the patriarchal society and their feelings about men. Some lesbians may have never experienced sexual intercourse with a man and may be unaccustomed to dealing with the fear of pregnancy, let alone the extreme feelings of being violated and abused.
Many people believe that rape only happens to younger women. It is difficult to think about our mothers or grandmothers being raped. The stereotype that only young, attractive women are raped prevents our thinking about the risk of rape for older women. Although it is true that younger women are more at risk for rape, older women are also raped (Ball, 2005; Burgess & Morgenbesser, 2005; Jeary, 2005). Older women are likely to be even more traumatized by rape than younger women because many have very conservative attitudes about sexuality, have undergone physical changes in the genitals (lack of lubrication and/or thinning of the walls of the vagina) that can increase the severity of physical injury, and have less social support after a rape, which reinforces and intensifies their sense of vulnerability (Burgess & Morgenbesser, 2005).