Rape Case Prompts Look at Psychology of Hate Crimes

I think this story from the San Jose Mercury News bears reprinting.

The people interviewed do a good job of expressing much of what I’ve been feeling about this incident.

People who make intellectual arguments – and for that matter scholarly, legal, and even biblical arguments – that in any way diminish another group or class of people open the door to hatred that may be beyond what they can imagine.

Every action has a reaction. Every light side has a dark.

For every modulated argument about how the love relationships of lesbians and gays are lesser, or different, or wrong in the eyes of some religion, there will be people who lash out in unbridled physical hate, because they feel they’ve been given license. For every lawsuit filed, or initiative placed on a ballot, someone, somewhere will suffer the consequences in horrific ways.

This is the end result of marginalizing people.

So even though signing a petition or casting a ballot seems so “clean” and so “fair,” people must remember what the basest result may be before they take action. Every signature and vote becomes part of the fuel for the firestorm of hate.

Here’s the story which was written by Robert Salonga of the Bay Area News Group. I truncated the story, which finishes with a recap of the crime. You can follow this link to read it in full .

News this week of arrests in the Dec. 13 gang rape of a lesbian in Richmond brought relief to many in the community, some of whom were so outraged that they led police to breaks in the case.

But even as the progress in the case is lauded, gay rights advocates and local and national crime statistics portray a gloomy truth about hate crimes against people based on their sexual orientation.

“Until we address the root causes of bias toward (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, we’ll continue to have hate perpetrated against us,” said Shawna Virago, a program director for the San Francisco advocacy group Community United Against Violence.

The group reported 304 crimes against Bay Area gays in 2007, the latest year for which complete statistics were available. That amounted to an approximate 6 percent increase from 2006.

Nationally, the FBI recorded 1,265 crimes deemed to have been motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation in 2007, a slight increase from the 1,195 tallied a year earlier but a 24 percent jump from 2005 figures.

Data compiled by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs — which counts the San Francisco group among its members — show national numbers to be considerably higher, from 1,486 incidents in 2006 to 1,833 the following year.

The national group’s figures are based on incidents reported to them by victims; the FBI figures draw from crimes police classified as a hate crime. The disparity highlights what is generally agreed as an underreporting of hate crimes based on the victim’s sexual orientation.”The only way we know about (the Richmond) case is because of the bravery of the survivor coming out,” Virago said. “Hatred and bias are a routine occurrence for many LGBT people.”

That may partly be due to the psychology behind hate crimes, particularly those involving sexual orientation, said a psychology professor at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

“What you get is this kind of immature desire to display power,” said Jose Feito. “And so they go looking for easy victims, or suitable victims.”

In the Richmond case, Feito said, “suitable” meant someone the attackers could marginalize in their minds. Sexual orientation can serve as a hate crime’s “trigger,” as he called it. But it is often that factor combined with a perception of gender nonconformity that leads to violence, he explained.

“That all ties into blaming the victim, who’s seen as flaunting their homosexuality,” Feito said.

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One response to “Rape Case Prompts Look at Psychology of Hate Crimes

  1. She wasn’t raped because she’s a lesbian. She was raped because she’s a woman. It’s still a hate crime.

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