The Justice Department recently released a report outlining a rise in LGBT violence from 12 percent to 17 percent, and a rise of unreported hate crimes from 54 percent to 65 percent.
Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, spoke with 429Magazine about his reaction to the report.
429Magazine: How did you react to the statistic in the report that cited that nearly 2 out of 3 hate crimes go unreported?”¨”¨
Jason Marsden: We’re certainly surprised that so many victims don’t feel the reports to the police are going to be productive. It’s shocking that there is so much of an increase in the feeling of futility that hate crime victims are apparently experiencing.
“¨”¨429Mag: Southern Poverty Law Center released a statistic that in the last few years they have identified an increase in hate groups in the US. Do you think this has had an impact on the increased rate of unreported hate crimes?”¨”¨
Marsden: Yes, we have been shocked by the rise of hate groups in the last few years, and primarily what we do is to encourage and help people get out of the closet. We were involved in congress to pass an expansion of anti-gay hate crime which was finally enacted in 2009 and since then we have actively been organizing to educate kids in school on LGBT issues and police sensitization training to counter these hate groups.
429Mag: Have you or your organization ever been threatened by a hate group?
Marsden: We don’t directly deal with hate groups, though we get nasty messages from them from time to time. What we do deal with is the fear and anxieties over personal safety, fueled by the atmosphere hate groups create. Hate groups create a climate of fear and hatred that surrounds the LGBT community which causes people to stay in the closet because of threats of violence.
Here at the Matthew Shepard Foundation we try to work against them, we try to educate and promote LGBT rights, to motivate the LGBT community to get fired up for social change.
“¨”¨429Mag: With many fronts of the LGBT agenda being progressed in the country, with both parties coming out in support of same sex marriage, and with extensive news coverage of LGBT issues, etc., does it come as a surprise to you that the Justice Department’s report included a rise in LGBT violence?
“¨”¨Marsden: There is a funny thing about social change work for minorities where you can have progress and backsliding at the same time. If you look at racial violence, there was a huge change in the social awareness and change in the last century, but at the same time there were murders, abductions, mob violence. So a time of great progress is also a time of great backlash.
In other words the statistical rise of violence on LGBT people is small compared to other groups in other times of great social change but it’s not necessarily surprising that LGBT issues of marriage, adoption, workplace inclusion and all the other things in the news is causing a backlash; precisely because there is progress being made.