Report indicates an increase in gay hook-up violence

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Friday May 7, 2010

Less than two weeks after three Maryland teenagers allegedly murdered a popular middle school teacher they met on a gay hook-up site, a new report indicates incidences of so-called anti-LGBT pick-up violence are on the rise.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released the report on April 29 based on data its 39 member organizations around the country. The New York City Anti-Violence Project, for example, reported more than 25 incidents in 2009. And these crimes included robberies, druggings, sexual violence and even murder after victims met their assailants on Adam4Adam, Craigslist and other hook-up and Web sites.

Lisa Gilmore, director of education and victim advocacy for the Center on Halsted in Chicago, told EDGE there are several factors that have contributed to this increase in hook-up violence. These include more perpetrators know how to use technology-and specifically hook-up sites, the stigmas associated with anonymous sex and fear to go to law enforcement.

"People rely on a lot of community members' fear of how people will react to them when they say they hook-up [anonymously,]" said Gilmore. "They rely upon their shame or embarrassment going to the police or the emergency room."

Doctor Kim Fountain, assistant director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, further expanded upon this point.

"Our general line to folks, the one we really try to drive home, is nobody should be a victim of violence; no matter what the circumstances are," she said. "That kind of ridiculous stigma attached to these situations does nothing but re-victimize people."

A number of incidents in recent years only underscore this growing problem.

Four Brooklyn teenagers attacked Michael Sandy in a remote area along the Belt Parkway in October 2006 after they met him on Adam4Adam. A car struck and eventually killed Sandy as he tried to flee his attackers. And John Kathesis allegedly stabbed WABC reporter George Weber to death in his Brooklyn apartment in March 2009 after he reportedly responded to a Craigslist ad seeking violent sex.

More recently, Tommy Reed allegedly robbed and murdered Mark Woodland in his Phoenix apartment on April 24 after he met him on a social networking site. Angel Pena Ayala allegedly forced a Hermosa Beach, Calif., man whom he had also met on a social networking site to drive to an ATM machine and withdraw money before he drove away in his car in late March. And local media reports indicate similar incidents had taken place in West Hollywood in the weeks leading up to the Hermosa Beach incident.

Back in Maryland, the three teenagers face first-degree murder and a host of other charges in connection with Betts' murder, but the group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence issued an advisory in response to this and Anthony Perkins' death in the District of Columbia in late December.

"In light of the recent murders of Anthony Perkins and Brian Betts, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) has reason to believe that gay men who arrange sexual encounters through [Web sites,] chat rooms, or apps may be being targeted for violent crimes," GLOV said. "While the internet and phone "chat rooms" offer a non-threatening environment to meet people, it can also provide opportunities for criminals to prey upon unsuspecting victims."

For its part, Adam4Adam links to the Anti-Violence Project's Web site and offers suggestions for its members to stay safe.

"While Adam4Adam is a place to make friends and acquaintances, we encourage all members to act responsibility in choosing their offline interactions and in being conservative in the distribution of personal information, such as name, phone number, address and pictures," it said.

Adam4Adam further maintains it "is not responsible for the conduct, whether online or offline, of any user of the Web site or member of the service," but Gilmore said she feels these hook-up sites could make a powerful statement to their members if they prominently post safer-dating tips.

"People are still going to hook-up, people are still going to have sex, [but] people may pause and think about how they are going to do it," she said. "I can imagine it's not going to crash their membership."

Log onto the NCAVP's Web site for safe dating tips.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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