The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a division of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, released a report about hate or violent crimes against the LGBT community. The findings are startling, with murder against LGBT individuals at the second-highest level seen in the past decade.
Ironically, or morbidly, the findings seem to correlate the rise in violence with the passage of federal hate crime laws. They show the highest spike in incidents against the LGBT community in October 2009, which coincides with the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
In 2009 alone, 22 victims of murder due to anti-LGBT prejudice were reported by NCAVP. Of that number, 79 percent were people of color. The study also reports that most murder victims were transgendered women or men who identify as women.
“These facts are deeply disturbing, as these are the same people who are more likely to face discrimination, criminalization or further violence when interacting with criminal, legal and social service systems. What we see is that they are less likely to seek and access support from these institutions,” said Maria Carolina Morales, of San Francisco’s Community United Against Violence (CUAV) organization.
Of the violent or hate crimes reported to NCAVP, many can be interpreted as not being criminal acts, as the figures include incidences of harassment and intimidation. Awareness, and having organizations to turn to, is key in preventing, assessing and counseling LGBT hate crimes. However, NCVAP organization members sadly report that 50 percent of their national affiliates laid-off staff, with a staggering 56 percent decrease in all positions.
“We believe that this drastically limited the ability of LGBTQ people to report violence and access to vital support and services in 2009,” said Lisa Gilmore, director of education and victim advocacy at Chicago’s Center on Halsted.
There are 15 contributing members of NCAVP. What is most shocking, however, is that there is no regional office for the Southeast—or Florida, for that matter. Given the overwhelming LGBT population in South Florida, with many individuals on the fringe of society, why are we not monitoring hate crimes against LGBT people in our community?
Detective Brice Brittenum, who’s with the Special Victims Unit of the City of Fort Lauderdale Police, says that currently hate crimes, attacks, and violence against victims are not tallied according to the bias—perceived or otherwise—in Fort Lauderdale.
“LGBT hate crimes are lumped into general hate crimes,” said Brittenum. “It doesn’t say it’s a hate crime against a Jewish person, black person or gay person. Within the report the bias would be described. For it to be a hate crime the bias has to be the reason for the crime.”
He described the difference as a thief who robs gay men who are going to and from gay venues because they are an easy target, as opposed to a person who wants to rob them because they are gay.
However, the July 21 defacing of one of Scott Galvin’s congressional posters in North Miami clearly implies we still have a great deal to do in terms of equality, and that we should develop a body that tracks violence against our community. The scribbling of the word “Fag” might be sophomoric but still reveals we have work to do in our own community.
According to Galvin’s July 22 press release, “Let me be clear: it is always, always wrong to attack a person for who they are.”
To see the full report compiled by NCAVP more information, visit Avp.org/ncavp.htm