Hate crimes up in number, level of violence

Posted on 11 Feb 2010 at 1:41pm
By DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Anti-violence coalition also says indicating intimate partner violence not taken as seriously as hetero domestic violence by authorities

Roberta Sklar

Not only is the number of hate crimes against the LGBT community increasing, the crimes themselves are becoming more violent, according to Roberta Sklar, a communications consultant working with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Of those victims reporting hate violence, 46 percent required medical attention.
In addition, reports of physical abuse by law enforcement officials increased 150 percent between 2006 and 2008.

Sklar noted some of the spikes in hate violence against the LGBT community. A recent spike occurred around the voting on Proposition 8 in California. Earlier increases happened the year civil unions were being debated in Vermont and the year same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts.

The coalition also looked at what they call intimate partner violence within the LGBT community. Maryse Mitchell-Brody of NCAVP and the New York City Anti-Violence Project said that domestic violence only refers to married partners in some states. Many  people who work with the issue, including police, often do not think of violence in same-sex households in the same way as in opposite-sex homes.

Defining intimate partner, however, can be difficult. Certainly it includes gay and lesbian couples that live together, Mitchell-Brody said. Long-term partners who do not live together or couples who have been dating would not fit into the domestic violence category, but should qualify as intimate partners. But she excludes "pick-up" violence or date rape from this group.

The problem in many cities, Sklar said, is a lack of services for gay victims of intimate partner abuse. Lesbians are usually accommodated in women’s shelters, but men are not. In New York City, Mitchell-Brody said, four beds are devoted to gay victims of intimate partner abuse. Dallas has more extensive services.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas said, "We provide a broad range of services."

Those services include a 24-hour hotline and links to safe shelter. Last year, they fielded 827 calls. In addition, Resource Center Dallas does advocacy work and training with Dallas police and soon will begin to do the same in Fort Worth. They have started including this information in the training programs that they are providing statewide for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Terry Slavin, lead staff attorney for legal services at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said that even when services to the LGBT community are available, victims’ needs are often not addressed because survivors of violence may be afraid to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition, she said, police often do not treat gay or lesbian victims the same way they do straight victims. They received reports of police arresting both the victim and the abuser.

In lesbian relationships, when one woman appears more butch, that’s who is usually arrested, even if she is actually the victim. And those arrested victims are taken to jail, rather than offered needed medical attention.

Sklar said that gays and lesbians in relationships are as likely as heterosexuals to experience physical violence from partners.

Figures from the FBI are lower than those collected by NCAVP because many LGBT victims of both hate and intimate partner violence do not report to the police. The coalition’s statistics come from member organizations rather than police reporting.

A report by the National Center for the Victims of Crime that will be released later this month shows that many service agencies "don’t recognize the need for competent services for LGBT survivors." They aren’t trained to provide those services to the LGBT community and do not publicize the availability of these services to the LGBT community. Mitchell-Brody said that the FBI has not included violence against the transgender community in its reports in the past. However,  the new Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act requires them to begin compiling these statistics.

The Dallas LGBT Family Violence Program hotline number is 214-540-4455.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.

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