RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — “Hate” crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have not abated in the past two decades, despite a public perception of greater societal tolerance, according to a self-funded study by the prestigious North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute (RTI).
And the greatest source of intimidation and violence, it turns out, comes not from strangers or random violence — but from the families of LGBTQ people, the study found.
RTI researchers, led by Tessaly Mckay, reviewed over a 100 studies on hate crimes against sexual minorities conducted since the 1990s and also teamed up with The Henne Group to conduct original focus group research in LGBTQ communities in San Francisco, New York, Durham, NC and rural Wyoming.
The primary impetus for the study was the passage of HB 2, the state “bathroom bill” that restricts access to public restrooms in North Carolina based on biological sex, as well as last year’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The researchers found a growing pattern of violence and intimidation against members of the LGBTQ community in schools, workplaces and homes across the country.
But they also expressed special concern about rural areas where LGBTQ individuals often live in less supportive political and cultural climates, and where perpetrators of hate crimes are able to operate with more impunity.
The researchers found that hate crimes were taking their toll on victims by reducing their school involvement and achievement and by increasing their risk of self-abusing behavioral health conditions including sexual risk-taking and suicide.
At the same time, McKay acknowledged that many of the studies they reviewed exhibited limitations in their sampling design and survey methods that made it difficult to quantify current hate crime trends with statistical reliability.
In addition to highlighting LGBTQ vulnerability in schools, McKay’s team noted that family ostracism and domestic violence posed a special threat to LGBTQ individuals who are still living at home with parents and spouses.
“We need more research to better understand what policies will provide LGBTQ+ youth with safer school and home environments, what resources provide LGBTQ+ people who are victims of violence the best support and how we can ultimately create a larger societal climate that doesn’t tolerate persistent, pervasive, lifelong victimization,” McKay said in an RTI news release.
RTI is a major US government contractor that conducts studies across the country and abroad, but enjoys strong roots in North Carolina and the American Southeast where events in recent months have highlighted the plight of LGBTQ communities.
The Institute, which was recently named the world’s most ethical company by Ethisphere, plans to finance and conduct a host of follow-up studies based on the findings of its first report, entitled, “Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?”