|LAMBDA Gay & Lesbian
Ant-Violence Project (AVP)
TO REPORT A HATE CRIME, CLICK HERE.
What is a hate crime?
Depending upon where you live, a hate crime is a criminal act which is motivated, at least in part, because of someone's bias or hatred of a person's or group's perceived race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.
When a crime is a "hate crime", the victim is intentionally selected because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. A number of federal and state laws prohibit acts or threats of violence, as well as harassment and discrimination, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender and/or disability. Some laws also include political affiliation, and age, though federal and state laws vary greatly. A crime is classified as bias-motivated (or a hate crime) when it is clear that the offender's criminal actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by bias.
LAMBDA GLBT Community Services takes hate crimes and other anti-LGBTH incidents very seriously. LAMBDA works together with law enforcement, judicial, and victim services agencies to eliminate and respond to such incidents.
Reporting hate-related incidents and domestic violence helps survivors take advantage of recovery services and enables our community to build up statistics and patterns of crime, providing an opportunity of catching offenders or prevent the violence altogether. Hate crime statutes are designed to send the message that hate-motivated crimes, because they are often attempts to silence and instill fear into entire groups, will not be tolerated.
When such incidents are invisible, it is harder to protect against them. Careful documentation and statistics are very important tools in fighting such oppression and bigotry.
After an incident, help is often available -- even if you wish to remain completely anonymous or choose not to report to the police. When we fail to report to law enforcement authorities or prosecute the offenders, we become passive victims that are at an even greater risk for future victimization.
And put quite simply, if you don't report it, we can't help.
To complete an online report, click here.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive (LGBTH) people are frequently the victims of acts that are motivated by prejudice and bias against them.
Listen to an NPR report with Brian Levin, director of the Center on Hate and Extremism at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, about why hate crime legislation is important.
(Requires the free RealAudio Player).
Certain criminal acts, when committed because of a bias against the victim or a group to which the victim is perceived to belong, are classified as hate crimes. In most places, these groups include those crimes committed against people because of their real or perceived gender, religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Hate crime law acts as a deterrent because hate crime perpetrators are punished more severely in states where such laws exist.
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws against hate crimes. Of those, 22 include sexual orientation in categories protected.
Under current law, the FBI is empowered to step in to help investigate certain hate crimes based on race, color, religion or national origin. But the law does not cover hate crimes stemming from bias based on the victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Listen to an NPR segment about 1999 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about whether to include crimes against gays, women, and the disabled in the list of hate crimes that are federal offenses. In that year, and ever since, legislators have attempted to strengthen federal law against GLBT hate crimes. Some analysts believe that the inclusion of sexual orientation galvanizes the opposition.
To listen to a report by NPR's Chitra Ragavan on the moves to get Congress to strengthen federal law against hate crimes, click here.
Current federal law covers crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin. However, there are no federal protections for crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. In addition, current federal law requires prosecutors to prove a hate crimes was committed while the victim was exercising a federally protected activity, such as using federal facilities or serving for jury duty.
Hate crimes laws are nothing new. In 1968, Congress first passed a hate crimes statute during a time of frightening racial violence. That law made it a federal crime to attack someone because of race, color, religion or national origin. It only applied if the assault was aimed at preventing certain federally protected activities, such as voting or going to school.
Hate crimes are a form of terrorism that have a psychological and emotional impact which extends far beyond the victim. They threaten the entire community and undermine the ideals from which this nation was founded.
Verbal harassment and name calling of individuals can create a climate of fear among an entire group of people when the only requirement is that the targets are perceived to belong to that particular group. Because of rampant ignorance and fear surrounding homosexuality, many bias-motivated physical assaults against gay, bisexual, HIV-positive, and transgendered persons are extremely violent and brutal.
In many states, the law allows for an increased penalty when a person is found guilty of committing a hate crime. Though most people would tend to agree that assaults and threats are acts that should be reported to authorities, many people and others have accepted name-calling and other harassment as something to be ignored. Using slurs and epithets is a way of showing someone that you believe that they are less-than-human and undeserving of respect. This lack of respect, which is taught by example, can often be seen in cases of homophobic violence. Calling someone a name, refusing to rent them an apartment, verbal threats, vandalism, abusive phone calls and Internet hate mail are all examples of anti-LGBTH incidents and may be hate crimes. Especially when coupled with phobias of homosexuality or AIDS, this can lead individuals to commit violence and other hate crimes.
Despite the availability of hate crime legislation in many states, victims of bias often fear that police won't take their reports seriously. It is hoped that the addition of sexual orientation and other categories to federal law, and the resulting promise of federal enforcement, will encourage victims to come forward.
LAMBDA believes that all anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or HIV-positive incidents should be reported and prosecuted whenever possible. However, LAMBDA also firmly believes that you have a right to make decisions for yourself. Therefore, LAMBDA will always help you -- whether or not you choose to prosecute or report to the authorities.
Some states have hate crime prevention laws, but beyond the law, many feel a change of attitude is necessary. Listen to NPR's Ray Suarez and guests for a look at community efforts to prevent hate crimes.
Teenagers are targeted frequently in anti-homosexual incidents. Sometimes, friends, strangers, and most tragically, parents and relatives victimize gay teens. Young gay & bisexual teens who are not loved, acknowledged, and supported are at increased risk for suicide, drug & alcohol problems, and homelessness. Even those that are accepted and loved can still face a difficult time growing up queer. LAMBDA is here to help GLBT and questioning youth.
In addition to anti-LGBTH incidents, domestic violence is also a serious problem in the queer communities. Gay & bisexual domestic violence occurs in probably the same proportions and causes similar problems as in the straight community. LAMBDA is the only service agency in the region to specifically address same-gender domestic violence.
More on hate crimes... click here