How Do We Perceive The Victim Of A Hate Crime?
On what seemed like a regular Sunday night in Lincoln, Nebraska, a town of just under 260,000 people, three attackers allegedly broke into Charlie Rogers’ house wearing ski masks and bearing zip ties.
Rogers, 33, reported to police that the men entered her home on July 22, bound her wrists and ankles, and carved homophobic slurs into her stomach and arms after beating her. Rogers remained anonymous in the initial news report, until allegations began to circulate that the entire attack had been fabricated or exaggerated. The police are investigating the incident and are treating it as an anti-gay hate crime. The attackers also allegedly spray painted another anti-gay slur on the wall of Rogers’ house before attempting to set fire to the structure. According to the city fire inspector, the fire did not cause much, if any, damage.
Image courtesy of KETV / Omaha.
Rogers spoke out in an interview on KETV, the local ABC affiliate out of Omaha, Neb.
Being a victim in [a] situation like this, or a survivor, and then having your integrity questioned … feels very victimizing again… My world has been forever changed by these events.
Just this week, a young man in Missoula, Montana posted photographs of his bruised and lacerated face, after filing a report with the Missoula Police Department alleging he was attacked outside a gay bar. However, it soon came out later that the story he’d told the police wasn’t true.
According to the Missoula Independent:
A 22-year-old man who reported he was the victim of an alleged hate crime in Missoula during the early morning hours of August 5 has admitted he made the story up.
“It has now been determined that the assault did not occur,” Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir said in an August 7 statement. That same day, Joseph Baken, of Billings, pleaded guilty in Missoula Municipal Court to misdemeanor filing of a false report to law enforcement.
The Tuesday afternoon confession came after the Missoula Independent and law enforcement obtained video showing the alleged victim doing a backflip on Higgins Avenue before landing on his face and sustaining lacerations.
It is an extremely disturbing and tragic reality that survivors of violent hate crimes are often faced with harsh criticism and accusations of begging for attention or for “asking for it” or making it up. We see this all the time.
Worse, still, is the backlash after someone admits to making up a claim of violence, as Joseph Baken did.
It’s not that it’s worse for the lying “survivor”. It makes it worse for everyone else whose claims are all too true, because now every time a true survivor, like Charlie Rogers, stands up and says “This is what happened to me,” the people who don’t want to believe it have another reason to ignore them.
We can talk about victim-blaming all we want, but we cannot discuss it without talking about the impact these falsehoods have. Fabricated claims do nothing to alter the abnormally high rate of hate crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQ community and its members, as well as people of color, but they do alter the way these crimes are perceived by our society.
According to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010, members of the LGBTQ community are twice as likely to be targeted than African-Americans, four times as likely to be targeted as Muslims and fourteen times more likely to be targeted than Latinos. [Note: the study does not distinguish between those who are actually of the Muslim faith and those who are believed to be Muslim or who are of Arab or Persian descent]
In November 2010, after a violent anti-gay hate crime in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Timothy Beauchamp wrote at AMERICAblog:
There is a pervasive cultural attitude by certain segments of society … that LGBT people deserve to be attacked. There was a time when African Americans experienced this treatment and was completely ignored by the state. Imagine what would happen on a job site had an African American been assaulted and the workers taunted the victim by saying, “[He] deserved what he got for being there!” Yes, less than sixty years ago those words would have been tolerated, embraced and even celebrated… It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.
It must be said that critics of LGBTQ rights advocates have often complained that race and sexual orientation should not be equated in the context of what we refer to as civil rights. These critics have repeatedly opposed legislation that is intended to counter or deter hate crimes by allowing prosecutors to bring additional charges against defendants for bias-motivated crimes.Up until the Matthew Shepard Act was signed into law on Oct. 28, 2009, there was no protection against hate crimes on the basis of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. You can read criticism of the Matthew Shepard Act here.
The law was the first federal piece of legislation to be enacted that extended federal legal protection to transgendered persons. The Act expanded the 1969 federal hate crimes law which protected those targeted for a hate crime because of “race, color, religion or national origin” and only applied when the victims were engaged in certain activities, such as attempting to vote in an election or to attend school.
In the case of Charlie Rogers, there are currently no suspects in this hate crime, but the investigation continues on in Nebraska.
Opinions stated in our editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Feminspire and its staff as a whole, but instead reflect the opinions of the writer.
Header image courtesy of TED KIRK/Lincoln Journal Star
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