Activists: Bashings, Violence Against Gays on Rise
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Robert Eikleberry became a statistic in what activists say is a national epidemic of gay bashing when four men dragged him out of his car, called him names and one beat him with a baseball bat.
Eikleberry, a 42-year-old electrician, hasn’t been able to work since the attack Oct. 30 that left him with three cracked ribs and bruises over his body.
In a case that galvanized New York City’s homosexual community, 29-year-old Julio Rivera was beaten and stabbed to death last summer by three men who police said had gone out hunting for homosexuals. One pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and two were convicted of murder in November.
″The gay community is under siege in this country. We are fighting an epidemic of violence,″ says Robert Bray, spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington.
Reported harassment of homosexuals in 1990 rose an average 42 percent over 1989 in six cities, the task force said. It documented 1,588 anti-gay incidents during 1990 ranging from threats to murder in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Reports of assaults at least doubled in each of the cities and more than tripled in Minneapolis-St. Paul over that year.
In New York, reports of such violence jumped from 289 in 1988 to 554 for the first 11 months of 1991, said Matt Foreman, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.
Nationwide figures are not available.
Bray, Eikleberry and other activists say gay bashing increases as more homosexuals come out of the closet and as many heterosexuals blame them for the spread of AIDS.
The ″increased visibility has garnered us additional power and tolerance in some places,″ Bray said. ″The price we’ve paid is we’ve become an easier target for bigots and bashers.″
Many crimes still go unreported because victims don’t want their names and addresses published in newspaper accounts of the incidents. Some fear their employers, landlords and relatives could find out they are gay or that they could be attacked again.
Foreman said his group received about five times as many reports of gay bashing in 1990 as city police did.
Eikleberry, who owns a gay bar in this Midwest city of 193,000, was dragged out of his car and attacked in a downtown area frequented by gays and lesbians.
″They said, ’Ok, faggot, it’s your turn,‴ Eikleberry recalls. He fought back until one of the four men - all in their late teens or early 20s - ″snuck up behind me and whopped me with a ball bat in the side.″
He reported the crime as a gay bashing. Police recorded it as an assault, even though Iowa is among 17 states with a hate-crimes statute that includes protection for homosexuals.
″There is no crime of gay bashing,″ Des Moines police Sgt. Ray Rexroat said Thursday. ″The crime is assault.″