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drops slightly in Columbus, a
Columbus--While anti-violence organizations across the nation saw a small overall drop in incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Central Ohio’s figures dropped even less.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Organizations reported a three percent drop in total incidents, while the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization only saw a one percent drop.
Those figures fit with the twelve-year trend noted by BRAVO, in which reported incidents have been within ten percent of 200 every year since 1995.
One seemingly frightening figure in the report is that Columbus was third in the nation for reported incidents of anti-gay violence with 199 incidents, behind only San Francisco with 285 and New York City with 486, despite the far greater sizes of the other two areas.
The large number of reports, however, is not necessarily an indication that violence against LGBT people is rampant in Central Ohio.
“As always, we attribute part of that to the fact that we’ve been collecting statistics for such a long time now in Columbus that we’re a little bit ahead of the game in outreach and getting people to report incidents,” said BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley. “Some of the other programs in the country are much newer, so they’re still in the process of doing outreach and advocacy in the community.”
“It takes several years of groundwork before you can even think you’re getting appropriate numbers,” she noted.
BRAVO’s prominence in hate crime reporting has another unexpected consequence: People from outside Columbus may report incidents to the organization.
While Cleveland and Cincinnati used to be part of the NCAVP report, the organizations that sent data for it are either no longer operating or have shifted their resources to other programs.
Stonewall Cincinnati merged into Equality Cincinnati in 2005, and the Cleveland LGBT Center stopped collecting data the same year.
“If someone in Hamilton County is victimized, BRAVO has a toll-free number, and even if we’re in Columbus, we try to provide support for that person,” McCauley said. “We’re also seeing increases in places that don’t necessarily have a reporting program like BRAVO. We’re getting reports from places like Tennessee and Arkansas.”
There was a surge in incidents near LGBT establishments late in 2006, but BRAVO also saw an increase of violence involving attacks on men hooking up online or in cruising areas.
According to BRAVO’s narrative from the national report, incidents at cruising areas increased from 23 to 26, while incidents where the offender was identified as a casual pickup or a “hook up” jumped from 21 to 33.
“A lot of it is people who are hooking up when they are meeting online, and one of BRAVO’s jobs now is trying to get the word out about internet safety,” McCauley said. “I think people want to believe what they read on a profile, and I think folks need to take some precautions and think about safer ways to go about it.”
“When you are going to meet someone in person, there are some precautions you can take, but a lot of people don’t think about that,” she continued. “Certainly, at least for the first time or two, meet in a public place. Try to get a little background on the individual. Let somebody know, let one of your friends know, that you’re meeting somebody, and where you’re meeting and how you met them.”
“There are some frightening stories out there about people meeting somebody and the after-effects are pretty devastating,” she noted. “Generally when somebody wants to be a thug, they want to do it in an easy way, and if they know that you have informed someone else of who you’re meeting, chances are their behavior will change.”
Last year, a ring of thieves operated on gay hookup websites in Columbus, luring men to a house and robbing them.
Attacks by women also increased, which McCauley found especially troubling.
“We’re seeing this in all demographics, even in the school arena,” she said. “We’re seeing more young women believing that it’s okay to be violent.”
“I think it’s the message that our youth are getting, it’s not so much that the aggressors are male or female but we’re raising generation after generation with the message that violence is an appropriate way of life,” she concluded.
The report also revealed the effect of a reorganization in the Columbus police department that absorbed the bias crime unit’s work into the Strategic Response Bureau. Since the change, no incidents have been filed by the police as bias crimes, compared to four the previous year.
The reshuffling also eliminated the bias crime liaison to the LGBT community, and since the Strategic Response Bureau took over, there have been no trainings for officers in bias crime investigation.
Columbus’ overall situation, however, appears to be rosier than Michigan’s, where the Triangle Foundation showed a 54% increase in reported incidents of violence against LGBT people.
Triangle and BRAVO are two of the founding members of the NCAVP, and their reporting areas overlap slightly, especially in Toledo and other border areas.
“When somebody in the Toledo area contacts the Triangle Foundation, Triangle will either contact us or recommend that the individual contact us,” McCauley said, although she noted that there were incidents where people near the state line were better served by the Triangle Foundation because of their proximity. Detroit, where Triangle has its offices, is about 55 miles from Toledo.