Chicago Lesbian Couple Attacked by Gang of Ten Men
A young Chicago lesbian couple was violently attacked and beaten up by a mob of 10 men on the evening of July 6, prompting gay groups to call for more attention to hate crimes.
"It was punches, kicks, everything being thrown at us," said one of the victims. "We just held each other until somebody said, ’Here come the police.’"
The two women, who choose to remain unidentified, were walking down North Leclaire Avenue in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago on Saturday night when a man they knew from the neighborhood began taunting them with anti-gay slurs.
The 23-year-old women said that the man called her a dyke and a bitch. The woman’s girlfriend, who is 25, told the men to stop. Later, the couple was walking in the same area when the man followed them, daring the younger woman to fight.
"Tell your bitch to stop looking at me," the man told the woman’s girlfriend, whom he knew from high school. The women asked him to leave them alone.
A second man them approached, cursing at both women. The first man then took a swing at them, punching the 23-year-old. The couple fought back, smashing a bottle over the first man’s head.
Other men on the street quickly joined in, pulling the women apart. The two fought to get back together, and were pressed against a car as the beating continued.
"I didn’t think we were going to make it out," the 23-year-old said.
The beating continued until one man said the police were coming. The attackers, laughing, fled in one direction, and the women went the other way. Both women had lost their shoes, and someone had ripped the shirt off one of them. The men stole their phones and cash.
The police never arrived, and the couple soon ran back to the building where the younger one lived and asked a neighbor to use the phone.
The younger woman said she passed out and awoke to paramedics working on her in an ambulance as she bled from the nose and mouth. A CT scan of her head and X-rays of her ribs and legs, found swelling but nothing broken. The other woman was not as seriously injured.
Police have labeled the attack a hate crime, and one man,identified as Terry Glover, 24, of the first block of North Parkside Avenue, has been charged with two counts of felony hate crime and two counts of felony robbery. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. The police are seeking other suspects in connection with the crime.
A study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found 2,016 reports of violence in 2012 against LGBT people and people affected by HIV. The report also found that LGBT people of minority races are nearly twice as likely to be victims of violence as their white counterparts.
According to the most recent Chicago Police Department data, there were 18 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the city in 2011 and 14 the previous year.
Gay Groups Demand More Attention to Hate Crimes
The beating has prompted gay groups to demand greater attention and response to anti-gay bias crimes.
"We see cases like this all the time, all over the city and all over the state," said Rick Garcia, policy director at The Civil Rights Agenda. "It shows that animosity toward lesbian and gay people is just below the surface. We think we’ve made such big gains, but right below the surface we see this animosity and violence."
Jane Merrill, advocacy and community engagement coordinator at the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center in the Lakeview neighborhood, said the women’s account of the beating shows how such incidents often escalate.
"In the reports that we’ve taken, this is very consistent: Incidents of violence tend to escalate when people don’t respond," Merrill said. "It starts with a slur, then they follow them, then the next time they beat them up because there’s no consequence."
Merrill said she believed anti-gay bias crimes like this were vastly underreported, saying that a lot of the systems in place for reporting these crimes did not feel safe to LGBTs.
"The police have not traditionally been a safe place for (LGBT) people to go. But reporting these crimes is so important. We can’t help communities unless it’s reported," she said.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of the gay rights group Equality Illinois, said his group is looking into ways to help raise awareness of LGBT issues in Austin, and other advocacy groups said they too hope to respond.
"One thing we’re realizing is that familiarity decreases hatred toward groups of people," Cherkasov said. "The more people know somebody who is gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the less likely they are to hate people in that group. Part of our work has been to educate the entire population about what it means to be bisexual, transgender, lesbian or gay."
The 23-year-old injured in the attack has left the neighborhood, but her anger remains, as she said, "It really shouldn’t matter who I like or who I love. I should be able to walk the streets wherever I want to go and talk to whoever I want to talk to."