Anti-violence report shows decrease in reported violence

Budget, staff cuts limit program capacity to capture data

By Crystal A. Proxmire

The National Coalition of Anti-violence Programs released its 2009 annual report in October, and though the number of reported instances of violence in the LGBT community was down, the news may not be as good as the numbers first suggest.

The total number of reported survivors and victims of hate violence decreased 12 percent since 2008. The number of reported incidents were down 7 percent, and the number of anti-LGBT murders were down 30 percent from the peak year, but were still the second-highest in the last decade.

There were 22 anti-LGBT murders reported across the country. Two of those murders took place in Michigan. William Boss died in early February after being stabbed 27 times. The alleged assailant, Robert Lewis Sheridon, met Boss in a Detroit area bar and was later allegedly found in possession of Boss' car. Sheridon is currently awaiting trial. The second murder was reported on May 25, 2009 when 28-year-old transgender woman, Foxy Ivy, was found shot in the back of the head. That same night another transgender women in the area was the victim of an attempted shooting, although police do not know if the shootings were connected.

The total number of reported victims went from 2,465 to 2,181 - an overall decrease of 20 percent. However, these numbers need to be viewed in a broader context. "The decrease in the number of victims...likely reflects, not an actual decrease in violence experienced by LGBT people, but rather a decrease in program capacity to meet community needs in the wake of financial crisis," according to the report.

The NCAVP membership currently includes 38 antiviolence organizations in 22 states, including Detroit-based Equality Michigan. Ten of the member groups responded to an internal survey about the impact of the economy on their programs and services. Half have lost staff due to funding cuts, and 70 percent of them had a current operating budget that was less than what they had in 2007.

The report also suggested that violent crime against the LGBT community spiked last October because of the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Boyd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The new law recognizes gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes under federal law, expands the scope of how hate crimes can be charged, and allows the federal government to step in when local authorities fail to protect the rights of protected minority groups.

"Monthly incident trends in 2009 indicated a possible correlation between the attention generated by the law's passage and reported incidents of hate violence. Historically, reported monthly incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate violence have peaked in May, June or July when LGBTQ Pride events increase visibility of LGBTQ communities. However, the peak in monthly incidents occurred in October last year , the same month as the bill's passage. Frustration with increased media attention and heightened LGBTQ visibility at this time could have incited hate-violence offenders to action. Alternatively, LGBTQ people could have felt empowered to report violence directed against them in the wake of recognition under federal hate crimes law. While causality is difficult to determine, it is clear that reports of violence increased around the time of the law's passage."

How agencies fight violence

Violence affects the community in many ways. The NCAVP looks at anti-LGBT violence, anti-HIV/AIDS violence and harassment, intimate partner violence (formerly called domestic violence), sexual assault, police misconduct and other situations where an individual may face danger due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Equality Michigan, formerly known as The Trinagle Foundation, was recognized in the report for helping a domestic violence victim through their struggle. A 43-year-old non-transgender woman wrote, "I had been in a domestic violence relationship for the past five years. While trying to get my things from the house that I shared with my ex-partner, her 18-year-old nephew beat me repeatedly over the head while my ex-partner watched. I was taken to the hospital and have been in on-going treatment for a traumatic brain injury. The Triangle Foundation has supported me by helping me to file a Crime Victim Compensation Application, helped file a personal protection order against the offender, accompanied me to court dates, and assisted me in finding resources for medical treatment and counseling."

Equality Michigan's Department of Victim Services offers free and confidential support to victims of hate crimes, harassment, discrimination, domestic violence, HIV-related violence, police misconduct and pick-up crimes. They offer crisis intervention, personal support and advocacy, and referrals to LGBT culturally competent attorneys, counselors, and social service agencies, as well as criminal justice support and advocacy.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The NCAVP recommends more community organization and funding to respond to hate violence, building more alliances with antiviolence groups and other LGBT-friendly organizations, creating safe spaces for victims, and using more creative advocacy tactics to expand options for service and community involvement for survivors.

If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please contact Equality Michigan through their website at http://equalitymi.org.
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