Yesterday, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released its annual report card on hate violence in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, and Colorado's numbers indicate a small but substantial upswing. Using data collected in 2011, the study shows that overall reports of violence increased by 3 percent, while those targeting Latino individuals more than doubled.
The Colorado Anti-Violence Program, a Denver-based partner of the coalition, maintains a 24-hour hotline dedicated to reporting incidents of hate-related violence across the state. Currently, ten volunteers take turns answering calls across three-and-a-half day spans, and they return every call within twenty minutes of receiving it. Much of the data used to represent the state stems from these phone interactions.
"It's a slight increase, but every additional number is one too many," says the CAVP's Sandhya Luther. Nationally, the survey identified a 16 percent decrease in hate violence reports but an 11 percent increase in murders. In Denver, the percentages reflect small numbers -- Latino reports increased from six to 21 -- but noticeable changes. "In the past year, our outreach has grown and we've increased bilingual support on our hotline," Luther notes, "so I think we're getting a more accurate picture of what's going on."
In one of the most difficult cases Luther oversaw in 2011, a Latina lesbian couple became embroiled in a custody battle over their two adopted children -- a fight that was quickly complicated by homophobia. The organization also fielded input from three inmates imprisoned in Colorado, including a transgender woman who says she was unable to guarantee consistent medical care because of prejudice within the facility.
Over a series of three reports from western Colorado, a lesbian woman revealed that she'd been raped by multiple men, and two gay men faced sexual assault from men who identified as straight. Overall, this year's data includes more occurrences inside homes and other private spaces than years past, with roughly 14 percent taking place inside residences. Additionally, 11 percent of Colorado cases took place on the streets, while 3 percent featured schools.
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Advocates continue to worry about under-reporting because of fear of or lack of faith in law enforcement. Approximately 31 percent of people who worked with the police as a result of their reports suggested officers were "indifferent" to the situation. One Colorado university student, who was attacked by other male students after holding his boyfriend's hand, did not report the incident to police because of "mistrust," according to the report.
Click through for additional information and a copy of the national report. In southern Colorado, a gay couple dealt with routine harassment from a neighbor, who refused to allow the couple privileges to their shared area of the property when he discovered they were not roommates, Luther says. When they applied to the landlord to ask for mediation, their request was denied and they were asked to move.
"The numbers help us place ourselves in the national picture, help us understand where the gaps are, what we could be doing better, what we're missing, what we're already doing well," Luther says. On her hotline shift this week, she received more than eight calls. "In Colorado, we need to provide more outreach outside of the Denver metro area, where we're concentrated."
This includes additional trips to Montrose, Alamosa and Grand Junction, cities where the CAVP has talked with residents about similar situations. In Denver, the CAVP promotes community awareness programs such as Branching Seedz of Resistance, a youth-led group that targets violence in lower age groups. But Luther cites a need for additional awareness across the state and within the city.
"Violence within the LGBTQ communities doesn't get the kind of attention that it needs to," Luther says. "We do have some shelters that open their doors and provide services, but it's not enough. There are providers and law enforcement who have a negative or indifferent attitude, and sometimes the law is not heeded in terms of providing equal access. That's a problem we face all the time."
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