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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Violence against gay, lesbian residents sparks new group

Project Resistance members discuss ways to keep city safe

September 4, 2008

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Lawrence has a reputation as a progressive and accepting community.

Organizers of the newly formed group Project Resistance agree with that description, and they want the city to stay that way.

The group was formed to focus on an issue organizers say has not received much attention in Lawrence: incidents of violence directed towards members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The group met Aug. 7 at Lawrence Public Library to gauge interest in the Lawrence community for the project.

As the library conference room filled up and chairs were brought in from other rooms, it was clear that there was significant interest in Project Resistance.

Project Resistance organizer Ailecia Ruscin became involved after hearing about several violent incidents in the community.

"We wanted to react in some way," Ruscin said. "We want people to know that Lawrence is a queer-friendly place."

Ideas discussed to make Lawrence safer included patrols to ensure safety late at night and outreach to other community organizations.

Several at the meeting spoke of an assault earlier this summer on a man and a woman outside the Replay Lounge. The Journal-World was unable to reach the victims of the assault, and organizers said they did not want to speak publicly about the incident.

Not wanting to go public in such instances is not unique, said Beth Savitzky, who attended the meeting. Savitzky is the outreach and education coordinator for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, an organization that provides case management services to gay, bisexual and transgender persons who become victims of violence.

"(There is) a fear of repercussion," said Savitzky about victims of violence based on perceived or actual sexual orientation.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two crimes based on sexual orientation were reported for Lawrence since 2003 - one in 2003 and one in 2006.

Kansas University also keeps such statistics. It recorded one incident in 2005 and two in 2001.

Ryan Campbell, executive director of Kansas University's Queers and Allies organization, said he doesn't hear much about violence against students based on sexual orientation.

"Rarely do we hear about it," said Campbell, who called Lawrence and KU a "very tolerant atmosphere" for the gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Nonetheless, Sonja Heath, another organizer of Project Resistance, said the group plans to send out a message that it has zero tolerance for such violence.

"We want a presence in the community that makes it clear we won't tolerate (violence)," Heath said.

Project Resistance's next meeting will be at 7 p.m. today at the Eastside People's Market, 409 E. 12th St.

- Correspondent Shaun Hittle is a graduate student in journalism at Kansas University. He can be reached at <a href="mailto:x99hittle@hotmail.com">x99hittle@hotmail.com</a>.

Comments

bangaranggerg 6 years, 3 months ago

So how did the term queer become synonymous with "loser" ? Oh yeah right, right.

KDW 6 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Two reported incidents of "hate crimes" against the homosexual community in five years? Two is too many but it doesn't seem to warrant a recurring focus group.If this group of people wants to do something for the community, why not volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter? Or help Habitat for Humanity build a home? Or find a needy family or elderly person in their neighborhood who needs their roof repaired or house painted and help with that? You want to make a difference and show compassion, then find a real need and fill it.I suppose the answer is that it is easier to talk about a perceived problem than it is to actually go out and help resolve a real one.

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

If people at a bar engage in a fight, that is quite a different scenario than an attack on someone based on their sexual preference.

Ragingbear 6 years, 3 months ago

We get hate crimes all the time. But the police decide to not label them such.

rachaelisacancer 6 years, 3 months ago

Obviously no one commenting here before me has been witness to sexual orientation harassment in Lawrence. People shout "F*g!" at others walking down Mass St. Once, a few young men shouted it at another man walking down Mass St., then jumped out of the truck they were driving and proceeded to physically assualt the man in broad daylight... Countless times I have been in bars where I saw gay men or women being harassed. While I only know of the one act of physical violence, based on the verbal harassment I'd say there's more of a problem than many want to admit. Just because the KU's Queers and Allies haven't been victims, doesn't mean no one has.

amywilhelm 6 years, 3 months ago

The insensitive comments posted here indicate the actual need for Project Resistance. First of all, gay bashing is not the same as a bar fight. Second, the incident that spurred Project Resistance didn't happen IN a bar. Third, that's two REPORTED incidents in the last few years. In other words, incidents that were actually cited as a hate crime. Gay bashing doesn't always get called as such. The purpose of Project Resistance is to educate those of you who don't "understand" that this is a real problem while helping those of us who are a part of the queer community feel safe in Lawrence. I would like to think that in light of the multiple incidents of violence over the past summer (not strictly violence based on sexual orientation, e.g. losing an amazing woman like Jana Mackey), the liberal city of Lawrence would rally behind an effort to end any and ALL kinds of violence. Come on Lawrence! Where's your support?

amywilhelm 6 years, 3 months ago

One last thing...Hate speech shouldn't be tolerated either. Calling a gay man a f-ing f*g is like calling a black person the n-word. Last time I checked, that was not a socially acceptable thing to say.

igby 6 years, 3 months ago

Twice this week I have witnessed fights downtown and in the Oread district, where drunk people were calling each other f***ts and homo's which soon caused them to starting fighting. In both cases, these guys were from Chicago. Lol.Both fights were very laughable and as soon as they started slapping at each other their friends grabbed them and broke them up. I doubt that any slurs where made in truth but only to excite anger. The last thing you should ever do is slur person in front of their girlfriend. This starts a fight every time. It must be the pasta sauce!

monkeyfunkytrans 6 years, 3 months ago

conceal carryreally? this is an anti-violence group

gr 6 years, 3 months ago

"With violent freaks like parkay and bondwomen,"If someone disagrees with you, that means they are "violent" and should be locked up forever?

bearded_gnome 6 years, 3 months ago

of the queer community feel safe in Lawrence. I would like to think that in light of the multiple incidents of violence over the past summer (not strictlyviolence based on sexual orientation, e.g. losing an amazing woman like Jana Mackey), the liberal city of Lawrence would rally behind an effort to endany and ALL kinds of violence.---in other words, "we want to take full advantage of huge local tragedies in order to promote our little agenda." that translation brought to you free of charge. seems more needful for groups to prevent violence towards: bicyclists; Christians (especially noting bigoted comments on these boards); hard working people downtown who don't want to be agressively panhandled; and taxpayers.
You better watch it B73H, and KDW, you're gonna be called "homophobic!"

mytwocents 6 years, 3 months ago

Gather 'round kiddos, it's time to tune in for a special episode on Hate Crimes and Under-reportingAccording to the Justice Department's November 2005 special report "Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police," the nation had an annual average of 210,000 hate crimes (based on data collected between July 2000 and December 2003). Of those hate crimes, only 43% were reported to police as hate crimes. And we will never have the data available of incidents that happen that never even get reported to the police.An ordinary crime becomes a hate crime when a perpetrator chooses a victim because of their skin color, sexual orientation, physical disability or religion. Simple, huh?No. For a crime to be recorded as a hate crime, there must be hard evidence that shows that hate prompted the crime. This is a very difficult thing to prove since often the only person who heard the racist or homophobic statement made before the attack is the victim. The perpetrator rarely admits that what they did was motivated by hate. When there are no other witnesses present, these crimes do not get recorded as hate crimes.Another problem with the under-reporting of hate crimes has to do with the state that one lives in. For example, states like Alabama do not consider crimes linked to sexual orientation to even be hate crimes. Gays have no legal rights in the state of Alabama.While the victims of the attacks from this summer choose to remain private about their experiences and not go public with their stories, it is important that a group like Project Resistance exists to offer assistance to those who find themselves attacked because of their sexual orientation. It is important for the queer community to be visible and to remind newcomers that if they are not wanting to live in a diverse and liberal community, they need to go somewhere else!For an article that discusses 13 anti-gay hate crimes reported to the Lawrence Journal-World between 1990-2007 please visit this: http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/wtmwrc/2007/may/21/bashersdozen/For an article that discusses under-reporting in Hate Crimes, see this 2007 Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/19/AR2007111901653.html

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