High rates of violence in 2009

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) released its report about anti-LGBT violence in 2009 yesterday. Last year’s figures show the second highest murder rates of those recorded in the past decade; half of those killed were transgender women and half were gay men. Race and poverty played significant roles in the targeting of those murdered; 79% of the anti-LGBT were of people of color.

And, alarmingly, due to budget cuts during the recession, the programs across the country that specialize in services to LGBT victims of violence had to cut their staffs by 56%. There are just fewer people to take the reports and to provide services that are sensitive to the needs of those who were targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Disturbingly, incidents by the police of bias-motivated misconduct were on the rise from the previous year and included entrapment, raids and unjustified arrest. In 6% of the incidents reported for last year, the offenders were police officers. Among the victims who reported the crime to the police, less than half said that the police were courteous in taking the report, with 18% reporting some kind of verbal abuse and 5% reporting physical abuse by the police while reporting an incident. The police arrested an offender in 25% of the incidents for which a police report was filed.

Also troubling is the fact that 10% of the victims were harassed or abused by an employer or co-worker and 12% experienced harassment or abuse by a landlord, tenant or neighbor. Even at work and at home, LGBT people are not safe from discrimination and danger. Among the recommendations in the report is the need to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to address workplace discrimination that can lead to violence.

The numbers in the study are yet another reminder of the need to work vigilantly to decrease violence in our country, especially the terror of crimes that are motivated by bias. It also reminds us to hold our government agencies responsible for dealing with hate crimes accountable to fulfill their mandates—including prevention programs, fair and timely investigation of crimes, and respectful and equal services for those who have victimized. The police must be held responsible for stopping the perpetrators in their own midst and to fulfill their obligations to protect people from violence and investigate when it occurs.

NCTE, along with a broad coalition of national groups that work on hate crimes, is continuing in dialogue with the Department of Justice, making recommendations to training materials, data collection processes, and more. Those in the Civil Rights Divisions of the DOJ and the FBI have sought out the input of groups who are impacted by violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation and we applaud them for that.  NCTE, along with allied groups, led a training for one branch of the DOJ in which we focused specifically on the ways in which gender identity, sexual orientation, racism, economics and other factors work together to place people at very significant risk of violence.  We will continue to work with the Department calling for the necessary education that is so urgently needed by local law enforcement.

Working with the DOJ and reading the NCAVP reports are challenging and immerse us in the incredible violence that is the physical expression of the prejudice and hatred towards LGBT people. But we can only solve problems that we understand.  Transgender people’s bodies cannot and must not remain the places on which others work out their hatred.  Every trans person—every person—deserves the right to live in this world freely and safely.

In the face of violence, we must continue every day to say that it is wrong, it will never be right and it must end. NCTE thanks the NCAVP for their ongoing work to address the unique needs of LGBT people who have faced violence and for their efforts to fill the gaps in urgently needed data about hate crimes in this country.

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