In a new study, The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has found that reports of violence, harassment, and intimidation against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in Minnesota spiked in 2007. Nationally, overall reports went up by an average of 24%. In Minnesota: 135%.
Some additional findings:
- 250% in need for out-patient services for victims of violence - 200% increase of victims requiring hospitalization or other extended care services - Increase in use of weapons, felony level assaults (327% increase) and threats of physical harm - 750% increase in the use of sexual violence - 125% increase in incidents with 2 or more perpetrators
The report suggests that a factor in these dramatic numbers might well be that more victims are turning to law enforcement than ever before--so more violence, harassment and intimidation is being recorded. According to the report, among clients of OutFront Minnesota, an organization fighting a multi-front battle for GLBT rights for more than two decades, there has been a nearly 50% increase in the number of people in the GLBT community reporting their victimization (the national survey was limited to victims who reached out to NCAVP organizations).
OutFront Minnesota Anti-Violence Program Manager Rebecca Waggoner Kloek is glad to see members of the community overcoming an entrenched and widespread fear of coming forward.
"There are very specific barriers to reporting incidents of violence," says Waggoner Kloek. "The fear of having to come out if your not out already stops you in your tracks. Also, when you are a marginalized community already with a bright spotlight on you, you're not going to report crimes in a climate where people are already saying: Look at those freaks. And with sexual assault there are the issues that effect any victim."
The number of reported crimes certainly suggests a new level of trust between the GLBT community and law enforcement--something OutFront has been working on for sometime, primarily through special trainings offered to the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments. It's a development Waggoner Kloek is glad to blame a little bit on her organization's work, but she also sees a less hopeful trend in the increased reports.
"In a lot of circumstances," she says, "I'm afraid people are reporting because they can no longer not report. The injuries are greater and the violence is greater. We've moved from a place where it was somebody yelling 'fag' or 'dyke' out of a window to three people beating somebody up on the street. I don't want to be alarmist."
In their work with police recruits, OutFront Minnesota trainers teach the basic language of the GLBT community and how to distinguish, for example, a hate crime from same-sex domestic abuse. In 2008, the organization is focusing on deepening its partnership with law enforcement and spreading out into the courts. "It'll be a lot of systematic training," says Waggoner Kloek. "We have a lot of work left to do."