Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Know Your Rights: Violence, Harassment and Bullying

This week during No Name Calling Week, schools and organizations across the country are working to raise awareness of the need to stop the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ people.

Despite the fact that all six New England states have hate crime protections for gay men and lesbians, four of the six have explicit hate crime protections for transgender people, and all six have some of the strongest anti-bullying laws in the country, GLAD’s Legal InfoLine continues to receive calls from LGBT people who have been attacked after leaving a gay bar, students who are being so badly harassed at school because of their gender identity or sexual orientation that they no longer feel it is safe for them to attend, and victims of same-sex domestic violence who are not taken seriously by the police, just to name a few troubling issues.

These reports to the InfoLine are mirrored in reports at the national level. As GLAD’s Mary Bonauto and Boston attorney Jeffrey Robbins, chair of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Board, wrote recently in the Boston Globe, “Fourteen years after Matthew Shepherd was murdered because he was gay, and three years after President Obama signed the hate crimes law that bears Matthew’s name, the victimization of Americans based on their sexual orientation remains real, and on the rise.” 

Their article goes on to say:  “In addition to the troubling hate crime statistics, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2011 National School Climate Survey reports over a third of LGBT students faced physical harassment and nearly 20 percent were assaulted in the last year.”

LGBT victims of hate crimes, domestic violence and school bullying are often reticent to report what happened to the police or school authorities because they fear that they will not be taken seriously and will even be further mistreated or humiliated.  This only further encourages perpetrators of hate crimes or school bullies to feel they can victimize LGBT people without having to fear punishment.

In Massachusetts, GLAD has been meeting regularly with the Boston, MBTA and State Police to establish better lines of communication and to make the police more sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community.  One result has been that the Boston Police have implemented a model program to better identify LGBT hate crimes. 

In the schools, GLAD continues to do substantial outreach to LGBTQ students throughout New England in order to educate them about their legal rights and how to get help if their rights are being violated. We are also involved in efforts to strengthen anti-bullying laws and ensure that they are enforced. 

In addition, there are several national bills that deserve support:
·        The Safe Schools Improvement Act addresses bullying prevention programs and requires states to collect and report information about bullying and harassment;
·         The Student Non-Discrimination Act forbids schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibits them from ignoring harassing behavior; and
·         The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act requires colleges and universities to recognize cyberbullying as a form of harassment and to fund anti-harassment programs.

GLAD wants to do whatever we can to end violence and harassment against LGBT people.  If you are a victim of violence or harassment, contact our Legal InfoLine at 800-455-GLAD (4523) or, and we will connect you with resources to help you get through the initial trauma, and provide you with ways to seek justice.

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