LGBT Victims of Violence: ‘Going to the Cops Will Only Make It Worse’
When Milan Nicole was 16 years old, she went out for an ordinary walk, on an otherwise ordinary day in her New Orleans neighborhood. Moments after leaving her door, she recalls, a man approached her and invited her back to his apartment for a drink—an offer she accepted.
Seconds later, she was in handcuffs. The man was a police offer, and he was arresting Nicole for prostitution.
“I was not doing street work,” insists Nicole.
A transgender woman of color, Nicole says her story is indicative of how police continue to treat members of the LGBT community—particularly transgender women and LGBT people of color.
“I was charged with a ‘crime against nature’—a felony offense—just for being a black transgender female walking down the street,” says Nicole.
The stats show that hers is not an isolated case.
A study released on Tuesday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs shows that transgender people are 3.32 times more likely to face violence from law enforcement than non-transgender people. As if that weren’t bad enough, transgender people of color are nearly 2.5 times more likely to face attacks by police than white members of the transgender community.
Nicole’s story underscores an often-adversarial relationship the LGBT community shares with police departments across the country—and not just in the Deep South.
Only half of LGBT victims of violence that reported their assaults to the Anti-Violence Project, reported their experiences to law enforcement.
“In New York City, we’ve seen law enforcement arresting members of the LGBT community for possessing condoms—which they cite as evidence of prostitution,” New York City Anti-Violence Project community organizer Ejeris Dixon tells TakePart.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Community United Against Violence organizer Maria Carolina Morales says that an enhanced deportation scheme by local police has driven undocumented victims of LGBT hate crimes underground—afraid to even go to the hospital after an attack, for fear that police will come and start asking questions.
“Victims of violence are seeing their survival criminalized by the state,” says Morales.