FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2006
VOICES AGAINST HATE RELEASES STATEMENT ON NEW BEDFORD ATTACK
Voices Against Hate joins the larger community in deploring the recent, unprovoked gun and machete attacks on three men in New Bedford. Our hearts are with the victims and their families in the wake of such a violent tragedy. We also acknowledge that, as an alleged hate crime, this attack reverberates with every Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender individual and the parents, families and friends who love them. News accounts of the assault consistently report that police believe this to be a crime borne out of hatred for gays. While we are grateful that this level of violence is not common in our area, we must be careful not to see this as an isolated incident of anti-LGBT violence. Hate crimes are a regular occurrence in RI and MA, as in other areas of the country.
Between 2000 and 2004, the RI State Police collected reports of 78 anti-LGBT hate crimes in RI. These statistics become even more meaningful when one considers that many, if not most, incidents of anti-LGBT hate violence are either not reported to the police or fail to be labeled as such. Boston’s Fenway Community Health Center Violence Recovery Program documented 105 incidents of anti-LGBT hate violence in Massachusetts for 2004 alone. The same year nationally, there were 2131 victims of anti-LGBT hate violence documented by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Twenty of those victims were murdered. In a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center in December of 2005, it is estimated that GLBT persons are victimized at 6 times the overall rate. Some estimates also conclude that the numbers may be as much as 15 times higher than are reported to the FBI. These statistics emphasize the need for a Federal Hate Crime Law that protects GLBT population. Thus, while it might be tempting to see the New Bedford incident as an isolated one, the statistics prevent us from doing so.
Denying full equality and civil rights to GLBT people, or any group, fosters intolerance, even as gains are being made. Whenever there is progress there is a backlash. With the runaway success of the love story “Brokeback Mountain,” we must be mindful that anti-LGBT violence is not limited to 1960s Montana or even 1990s Wyoming where Matthew Shephard was murdered; hate based violence is a problem now in our own community. Whenever elements of our society are allowed to dehumanize others, we contribute to the culture of violence against all of us—when we fail to unite against all bigotry, we brew a climate in which the disturbed among us nurture their hate and become emboldened to act as judge, jury, and executioner for their own prejudices. Maybe next time, it isn’t gay men who are targets, but Jewish women or Muslims or Italian/Catholics. Maybe next time, the victim is someone you know and love. We need to address the lack of services now. We need to insist upon full education and training of our police forces and direct services for victims of hate crimes here in RI like those provided by our neighboring state.