The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence


May 2011

Why doesn’t Virginia consider violence related to sexuality and gender identity a hate crime?

Recently there was a brutal attack against a transgender woman in Fredericksburg, Virginia that occurred on May 21, 2011.  It appears there was an interaction with her earlier, she was then followed or spotted at a local 711 and then attacked.  One excellent bystander intervened by putting himself between her and the attackers. 

It’s appalling that these crimes happen and yet they happen frequently.  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender identified individuals continue to be an invisible minority, yet have a higher rate of crime targeted to them.  While there are scholarly articles being written, studies being done, and programs striving to address violence against the LGBTQ community, there is much to be done to address continued homophobia in our society, the perseverance of myths about sexuality, and the amount of violence directed against those who are marginalized.  The impact of societal neglect and the lack of support have great consequences not only for LGBTQ on health, social and educational issues but for the greater community as well.  How do we continue to live with each other with such walls between us?  How do we continue to justify the cost of crime, which can be prevented?  As a therapist, I watch my own field continue to come up with ways to use diagnosis and treatment as a means to address gender identity and sexuality and see it only a means to further segregate a group from the mainstream.  I see this use of labeling being used to move members of our community further out on the fringe where they are in fact more at risk for violence, health consequences, developmental delays, and shortened life-spans. 

I feel the two-sided impact of cultural homophobia every day.  I feel the division between myself and my peers every day.  I suffer the aloneness that comes from not being able to have a full conversation with someone because I am seen as heterosexual and white and therefore an enemy from the privileged mass.  I feel that wall of fear and suspicion every day of who I really am and what I really mean.  I feel engulfed by the barriers that keep me from people I love, people I work with, and communities I work in and live in, and people I serve. 

While I run an anti-violence agency that focuses on sexually violent crimes, I stand with my community to put a voice out against violence toward anyone.  Violence in our community effects us greatly; all of us; every day.  It costs us in all spectrums of our lives: interpersonally, socially, spiritually, and financially.  I hope more people in my communities will stand with me and add your voice to ending violence.

 Please contact the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and check out their website for information and services for LGBTQ in Virginia. 


 articles regarding the assault

Still this goes on… sexual violence as an accepted expression of power

Sex, Lies, Arrogance: What Makes Powerful Men Behave So Badly?

I find the quote by Anne Sinclair  that she was “rather proud” of  Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a ladies’ man, and that “It’s important  for a man in politics to be able to seduce, “ disappointing but not unusual.  We still have such a double-standard as to the sexual and power behavior between men and women.   Maybe now though, there have been enough cases, or enough growth culturally and politically for the debate over sex, law, power and privilege to have real meaning in our global discourse of gender equality and violence.  Will now, these aggressive displays of power over women, finally act as a derailment to the rise in power instead of an enhancement?

Is it fast enough?  Some recent men:  Tiger Woods, managed to actually turn his behavior into sympathy; Charlie Sheen tried t turn his behavior into a crusade and when he finally did get negative feedback, his abuse of women was ignored.  Then Strauss-Kahn, whose behavior is minimized because he is such a powerful figure, who’s supporters turn to that old tried and true tactic of vilifying the victim, and who can afford the creation of the best spin is yet another male speaking out of one side of his mouth while grabbing the ass of a marginalized individual while no one is looking.

Are we so seduced by power still, that we overlook the sins of those we aspire to be?  Do we still not hold accountable those who are stars?  And is it that they take such power or that we continue to give it to them?  And are we finally starting to realize all that we lose by being blinded by power?  Or is it a deeper issue that we, in society, so want to be the star, to have such privilege that we overlook such sins because we cannot admit our duplicity or our own potential for such behavior?

Kudos to the authors of the article who write “More often than not, the women involved weigh the stakes and decide to be silent, judging that the burden of proof is high and that they have little to gain and so much to lose. It’s no coincidence that when events like this happen, women come out of the shadows to add their testimony; they figure the odds have improved enough that they just might be believed.”  So true this statement of why survivors, particularly survivors from a marginalized demographic behave the way they do in regards to sexual assault.  And why the powerful take advantage of that dynamic.

Who is at more risk are our youth and the lessons they learn.  We are trying now to educate our youth and our male youth to see women as equals with an equitable stake in our community.  Will they learn that all lessons can be forgotten when they achieve power?

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