All crimes impact the community, but hate crimes and hate incidents are classified differently because the person involved in the hate crime acts as a representative of a larger group. There is never just one victim of a hate crime; every member of that group has reason to fear.
To determine if a crime was based in bias or hate, important distinctions must be made. Investigators must try to determine the offender’s motivation. They look for indicators like whether the offender and the victim were of different races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and other qualities. They look for a history of bias, statements, gestures or other expressions by the offender. They might also look at the environment of the crime, whether the victim would be considered a minority of that community, whether crimes against the victim’s group have been perpetrated in the past.
So while determining whether a crime if based in bias or hate can be complicated, it’s also troublesome that hate crimes tend to be underreported. A report by the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Task Force reviewed the hate-crime reporting policies of local law enforcement agencies. It noted the lack or inconsistencies of hate crime reporting in the area. For example, when the director of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Division began screening all offenses in 2012, she identified 12 cases that year with some indication of bias. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office, on the other hand, had reported no hate crimes that year.
And yet… in the United States, LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer) are more likely to be targeted for hate crimes than any other minority group, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
So as a member of the LGBTQ community, you have more reason to fear for your safety and acceptance when you’re growing up, moving to a new home, raising an LGBTQ child, marrying, applying for a job… pretty much all the time. And that fear can have a brutal effect on your well being.
According to Austin’s OutYouth:
- LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely as non-LGBTQ youth to say that they have been verbally harassed in school.
- LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than their straight peers.
- LGBTQ youth believe, to a greater extent than their peers, that they must leave their community to make their hopes and dreams come true.
This community needs your support.In Austin, there are a number of organizations that help support and build the resilience of people (the individuals and the families and friends of) in the LGBTQ community.
OutYouth – For more than 25 years, this organization has been providing support and counseling services to LGBTQ young people. It’s most remarkable program is The Drop-In Center, a two-story house around 49th and Airport that offers acceptance, a group of peers, facilitated conversations and other services. OutYouth is very popular with volunteers with lots of ways you can get involved. Donations also welcome!
PFLAG Austin – A chapter of PFLAG National, PFLAG engages parents, families and friends of LGBTQ people by offering support and opportunities for political activism. Their work around community activism creates a great opportunity for volunters; PFLAG participates in events throughout the year to drive awareness and promote acceptance. Check out its “volunteer” page for dozens of ways you can support the LGBTQ community in Austin now, from becoming a member to telling your family’s story, participating in meetings and creative ideas for messaging your elected officials.
The Handsome Father – The Handsome Father supports gay fathers and fathers-to-be. The Austin-based organization’s website offers a wide list of support organizations and professional services for dads, from attorneys and counselors, to egg donors and adoption resources. It also offers the stories of other dads wiling to be mentors or connect with other dads. You can support their work by requesting to be listed among its resources for free or sponsoring the organization for benefits beyond the listing.
Anti-Defamation League – ADL is the main convener of the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Task Force, which was officially launched on December 15, 2010. It’s also the organization behind the “No Place for Hate” programming in almost every school in Central Texas. ADL is always looking for volunteers as well as financial support.
For a more extensive list of organizations across the country that support LGBTQ youth and families, see Austin Independent School District‘s list of resources.