No, I am not going to be a bride tomorrow. The age old advice to brides about what to wear going down the aisle also applies to the big step I will take tomorrow. I embark on something new–speaking to a group of victims’ advocates about LGBT crime victims. In a way it is something old for me as I began my career years ago in New York City working in criminal justice at an alternative to incarceration for youth offenders. I first worked as a teacher and then the director of education. As a result, I spent time in the courts, and I got to learn about victims of crimes firsthand.
Throughout the United States (Canada and beyond too I imagine) on the local and state levels there are people who work directly with victims of crimes. They may do direct work almost immediately after a crime is committed, particularly physical or sexual assault, to assist the victim navigate the medical, legal, personal morass as a result of a violent crime to an individual or a loved one. The work of the advocate becomes especially important when domestic violence is at the heart of the crime. On the state level, victims’ advocates help update victims as the perpetrator goes through the system, comes up for parole, or is ready to be released from incarceration.
Tomorrow I will spend time with a group of victims’ advocates, administrators, parole officers, and others involved in the welfare of victims, and I will speak specifically about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer concerns. As LGBTIQ people we often face multiple complications when we are victims of crimes. Sometimes law enforcement officials exacerbate the trauma we face instead of lessening it. Sometime medical staff cause more harm than healing. Sometimes we face a direct bias that effects the help we need. Other times we suffer because of the ignorance or misunderstanding from a well meaning but ill informed professional who wants to help us.
I am going to borrow from my performance work and present my play Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, which serves as a primer about many LGBTIQ issues, identities, and intersections of identities. This will give us a jumping off point to help talk about basics–proper terminology, differences between gender and sex, going beyond binaries, etc. Then we will go deeper.
No don’t things will get blue–no not in the x-rated sense or a delicious cobalt blue frock. Things may get blue meaning they might get sad because of the sad realities many LGBTIQ people have faced in addition to the crimes perpetuated against them. Police, press, lawyers, family, medical personnel sadly can deepen the nightmare many of us have fast when dealing with crimes against us.
I am pleased that this group wants to meet. I know they care about victims, and they want to do the best job possible. This encourages me. As I have done research the past few weeks, I have soaked in all kinds of stories. Still I would like to hear more if you are willing and able to share.
Have you been a victim of a crime–not exclusively a hate crime–any crime? What was your experience as a victim of a crime when dealing with police, medical personnel, legal professionals, and others? What did you need? How did those who were supposed to help you actually end up failing you? What did someone do or say that was helpful to you? I would love to carry your story with me.
For further reading visit The National Center for the Victims of Crime and see their recent study: Why It Matters
Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Victims