Bias & Hate Violence
If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911.
What Is Hate Violence?
Hate Violence can range from verbal harassment, phone or e-mail harassment, property damage, threats of assault, actual assault or “bashing,” rape, and murder. Almost every lesbian, gay man, transgender individual, or bisexual person has experienced some form of hate violence, knows, or knows of someone who has been impacted by violence.
Many LGBT people have become so used to hate violence that we tend to expect and even accept a certain level of harassment. However, the truth is, it’s never okay to be harassed or hurt because of who you are or who you’re perceived to be. All hate violence is painful, threatening, and often traumatic.
Given the history of LGBT organizing, the work being done in local communities to respond to anti-LGBT violence is relatively recent. The best available research suggests that 40% of lesbians and gay men in the U.S. consider themselves the victims of hate violence in their adult lifetimes, and that hate violence is a near-universal experience of openly LGBT youth. Additionally, we know that people of transgender experience are particularly in danger of being targeted for hate violence. Finally, an unknown number of others subsets of our community - mainly young people and seniors, fall victim to other family member abuse.
Even the minority of LGBT people who do not personally experience these or other characteristic forms of violence (which include sexual assaults and abuse, “pick-up” crimes, family abuse and police misconduct) may suffer the secondary effects, when friends or family members are targeted or when they limit their own freedom or self-expression because they fear becoming victims themselves.
What are Hate Crimes?
First, it’s important to note that in fact, bias or “hate” crimes don’t technically exist everywhere, and where they do exist, they may not exist for every group impacted by hate violence.
For instance, some states don’t have any hate crimes laws at all. Others have hate crimes laws that include “sexual orientation;” very few have laws that include “gender identity and expression,” which explicitly addresses hate crimes targeting people of transgender experience.
For the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's map of states with and without the different types of hate crimes laws, click here. [Adobe PDF; 23 KB]
Additionally, in the simplest of terms, hate crimes are essentially any crime for which the motivation of the perpetrator is based wholly or in part on his or her perception of the identity of the victim.
Hate crimes are crimes can be committed against you or your property. Because these crimes are committed because of hatred for who you are or who people think you are, and these acts, or threats of them, are based on hatred of and prejudice against a particular group in society, they are termed “hate crimes.”
Since hate crimes are based on the perpetrator’s assumptions about the victim’s identity, the victim does not have to even belong to the targeted group. For example, two sisters walking arm and arm may be perceived as lesbians and harassed or assaulted.
Hate crimes involving assaults are usually more brutal than other kinds of attacks. In these attacks, the perpetrators often outnumber their victims, use weapons that require close contact and brutal force, and result in the victim suffering from multiple injuries, or what’s described as “overkill,” a marker of a violent response that in part comes out of an emotional one.
Hate crimes not only hurt you as a victim, but also are meant to send a message of hate and fear to the larger community. Whether or not we have been personally attacked, we are in fact all victims of these hate crimes. We “alter” ourselves or our behaviors in different situations to avoid being harassed or hurt. An example is fearing to hold a lover’s hand in certain parts of town or showing public affection for fear of causing attention and being hurt.
When we modify our behavior in ways such as this, we’ve received the message that the perpetrators of hate violence have intended for you to hear: “If you show yourself, you could be next.” This is how hate violence hurts all of us. We may not even be aware that we alter ourselves and what we do because it has become so routine, but we live in fear everyday for what could happen to us if we’re identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of hate violence, the best thing to do is to try and get help from a local anti-violence program, such as one of NCAVP’s members.
For a list of local anti-violence programs, click here.
For comprehensive reports and data on hate violence, click here.