GLBT Violence Down, Severity Up, Studies Show

Violence against GLBT individuals is down both nationally and locally, according to groups that study the issue. However, it’s not all good news. Reports in Colorado also show that the severity of violent incidents has gone up, and it may get worse as the election gets closer.

“We found that incidents of violence against gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals had actually fallen,” said Veronica Garcia, spokesperson for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program (COAVP), a non-profit support group for GLBT victims. 

“But what we do know is that although the number of incidents fell, the severity of the incidents that we experienced actually increased,” Garcia said.
  Last May, COAVP released its annual study detailing reported incidents in Colorado in 2005. At the same time, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a group that monitors incidents all around the country, released its annual findings for the same year.

According to the reports, there was a 13% decrease in GLBT violence nationally, which can range from verbal abuse all the way to homicide.  Anti-GLBT murders also fell 15%, while the number of offenders fell 6%.

In Colorado, COAVP found that documented victims fell more than 50%, a fact which the group attributes to a drop in reports from other organizations.

But while the victims fell, the number of them needing medical attention increased by 17%, and assaults increased 38%. There was also the murder of Kevin Eugene Hale, an openly gay man in Montrose, Colorado.

Another factor in the reports was the relation to violence with GLBT politics and polarization:

The decline comes after dramatic increases in anti-LGBT hate incidents noted by the organization in 2003 and 2004 as the nation grappled with significant victories and defeats for LGBT people such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the granting of same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts, anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states, the Presidential and Congressional threat of a federal marriage amendment, and the demonization of the LGBT community and families during the 2004 election cycle. For instance, after rising only 3% in the first six months of 2003, reports of anti-LGBT violence to NCAVP member organizations jumped 26% after the Lawrence decision and the Massachusetts marriage debate. Such reports rose another 4% in NCAVP’s report on anti-LGBT violence in 2004.

Colorado voters will decide whether or not to allow domestic partnerships for same-sex couples this November, and if they want to define marriage as strictly between one man and one woman. The implications of these ballot measures remains to be seen, and will probably not be known until a report can be compiled for 2006.

When asked whether GLBT violence was more prominent in rural or urban areas, Garcia said that there were more incidents in the Denver-Metro area, although she doesn’t know if it is because COAVP is based in the city. She also noted though, that violence wasn’t limited to greater populations. 

“It’s all across the state. We have reports that come in from some of the smallest most rural areas all the way on up to the Denver-Metro area in its entirety,” she said.

Along with educational services, COAVP also provides a toll-free 24 hour crisis phone line for victims being harassed or abused.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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