National report looks at hate bias
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A recently released national report highlights violent incidents suspected of being motivated by victims' sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-affected status. But numbers for San Francisco and the other cities lump in categories like employment discrimination that make it difficult to determine actual cases of violence.
Despite an overall drop in cases, murders are up, according to the study, "Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-affected Communities in the U.S. in 2011."
The report says that overall incidents decreased by 16 percent, 2,503 in 2010 to 2,092 in 2011. However, during the same period, murders increased 11 percent from 27 to 30.
The study says, "This reflects the highest number of murders ever recorded" by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which released the review Thursday, May 31.
The high number could be the result of increased reporting by individuals to the various organizations that report data to NCAVP. Details on many of the 2,000-plus incidents in the report, which include information from individual and news accounts, appear to be extremely thin, but the data at least provide a snapshot.
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Community United Against Violence, which has changed its focus in recent years, is the local organization that provided data for the national report.
In the national study, people of color accounted for 87 percent of the murder victims in 2011. Half of the murder victims were non-transgender men, while most of the rest were transgender women.
Chai Jindasurat, NCAVP coordinator at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said in an interview that from what he and other advocates know about the murders, arrests have been made in only four of the cases.
Locally, CUAV's figures show 141 victims reporting incidents of hate violence in 2011, a drop of 34 percent from 2010.
The study says the decrease is "likely due to transitions in program structure and documentation processes. CUAV started to implement programming in 2011 that focused on deeper support and leadership development for survivors, which entails decreasing [the] number of individuals reached ... ."
Stacy Umezu, CUAV's membership director, said in an interview that the reports last year included threats, harassment, wrongful termination from employment, and housing evictions apparently based on anti-LGBTQ and HIV bias.
However, he said, "We don't have the capacity" to provide specific data for the number of cases in each category. He also couldn't say how many incidents were reported to police or involved formal complaints.
The nonprofit used to be better known for assisting victims with specific incidents through services such as its safety line and distributing whistles to people in advance of large events such as Pride. It also helped people get restraining orders and worked more closely with law enforcement.
Now, there seems to be more of a focus on addressing issues such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities program, which according to ICE's website "helps to identify criminal aliens."
Umezu said the nonprofit is trying to support "low- and no-income LGBTQ people of color who are surviving violence over a longer period of time, so in addition to getting the support around individual incidents of violence, we are also trying to address issues of isolation and leadership skills by providing opportunities to engage in the organization and learn about local issues that affect their safety, such as Secure Communities."
He said the shift in CUAV's focus stemmed from the three-year strategic plan officials launched in 2009. He said that guide was based on research they did with other LGBTQ anti-violence organizations in the U.S. and interviews with former CUAV clients.
"As a result of that information, we really heard there was a need to go deeper with the support we were able to offer," Umezu said.
Rather than just a hotline, people wanted services like support groups and "long-term healing and wellness spaces," he said.
The safety line used to be staffed by people 24 hours a day, but now callers leave messages.
The nonprofit currently has six full-time, paid staff. In 2009, it had 13. Next year's budget is projected to be approximately $505,000, close to what it's expected to be for the fiscal year that ends in June, according to CUAV's Pablo Espinoza.
Among other caveats for the national report, advocates said there are likely many cases not represented, such as victims who aren't out and didn't report incidents to anyone.
There are also holes in incidents that have been reported.
Out of the 2,092 incidents, there are 738 reports where those who compiled data know whether the incident was reported to police. In 52 percent of those cases, such reports were made, Jindasurat said. He said reasons for not reporting incidents to authorities include the fear "that they may not be believed."
Police and other law enforcement officials in San Francisco frequently say they take anti-LGBT hate crimes seriously, though.
In April, Mia Tu Mutch, a transgender woman who was attacked in 2011, was among those honored by District Attorney George Gasc—n in recognition of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Gasc—n had been adamant in charging the case as a hate crime.
In response to emailed questions Tuesday afternoon, June 5, however, Tu Mutch didn't seem to have any particular fondness for law enforcement agencies.
"I received tremendous support" from CUAV, she said. "The solution is more community-based programs like that, not increased policing."