Anti-Gay Hate Crimes Rise in New York As Numbers Fall Nationally
NEW YORK CITY — For Nick Porto, New York City stopped being a safe place on May 5, when he and his boyfriend Kevin Atkins were brutally beaten in broad daylight while walking arm in arm near Madison Square Garden by a group of men shouting homophobic slurs.
Since then, he's been unable to leave Atkins' side out of fear of another attack, and has been prone to random bouts of bawling his eyes out in public.
"I don’t feel safe in this city at all," Porto said. "Every time I see a gay guy walking down the street, doing his thing, I’m afraid for him."
What happened to Porto, 27, and Atkins, 22, was one of many recent high-profile anti-gay attacks over the past month. But violence against LGBT people is nothing new, according to a recent study that shows similar attacks have been on the rise in New York since 2010, even as they've plummeted around the country.
From 2011 to 2012, reports of hate crimes against LGBT and HIV-positive people rose by 4 percent — making it the fourth straight year that such attacks have gone up in New York City. In 2011, attacks increased 11 percent, and they shot up by 13 percent in 2010.
In all, the study found that New York saw 398 attacks in 2010, 451 in 2011, and 470 in 2012.
The study does not even take into account the latest spate of attacks on members of the gay community.
The data comes from a national study of hate attacks put together by a group of 15 anti-violence groups in 16 states, including New York's Anti-Violence Project, which has assisted victims of many of the recent incidents.
The study, released Tuesday afternoon, documented 2,016 attacks in 2012, a 4 percent decrease from 2011.
The city has seen a rash of of anti-gay violence over the past month, including the shooting death of Mark Carson in the Village, called an "out-and-out assassination" by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
The attacks have gotten so bad that a group of real-life superheroes have pledged to patrol the streets of Greenwich Village and the West Village to prevent more anti-gay crime.
Overall, the Anti-Violence Project said it's responded to a total of 12 separate high-profile attacks in New York City.
"Recent hate violence incidents, including one fatal incident, have brought the issue of anti-LGBTQ violence to the attention of all New Yorkers,” said Sharon Stapel, the Anti-Violence Project's executive director, in a statement.
“However, the truly alarming fact is that this violence happens to LGBTQ people every day."
Kerri, 33, an African-American transgender woman, said that she was not surprised by the numbers.
"This happens every day in my community. I live in the projects," she said. "It needs to happen in the Village to get any attention."
For some, the statistics shattered their belief that New York was a safe haven for the LGBT community.
"It's shocking that it's rising," said Kevin Wehle, an activist with the Queer Empowerment Project.
"I think that everyone thinks of New York City as liberal, but there's always people who want to harm us."
Wehle, like other activists, said that many of his friends have because cautious of going out after the recent attacks.
"They think that will keep it at bay — if they stay home a lot more," he said.
Craig, 24, said that even before the numbers were released, he and his friends decided to make a concerted effort not to go out at night.
"We can have a fun time at home with some wine," said the out gay Brooklynite, who asked that his last name not be used.
"It's cheaper, and more importantly, it's safer."
The toll on LGBT immigrants in the city is even harsher than their American-born counterparts — according to the report, hate crimes against gays that were motivated by anti-immigrant-bias shot up from 24 incidents in 2011 to 90 in 2012.
Those who are attacked often don't get a good response from police, the study found: nearly 40 percent of victims said they experienced "police misconduct" when cops dealt with their attack — with reports of said misconduct jumping from 8 in 2011 to 78 in 2012.
Reports of "hostile attitudes" from cops doubled, according to the study, from 21 in 2011 to 43 in 2012.
Police have yet to identify suspects in the attack on Porto and Atkins, even though cell phone video of eight people of interest went viral.
For Porto, who said he suffers from post-traumatic stress and recurring night terrors since the attack, even recent victories by the gay community aren't enough to make him feel safer.
"It's never been about gay marriage. It's about not feeling like we have to hide all the time," he said.
"It's about actually living long enough to experience it."