Hate Crimes Legislation Vital to Women's Lives

Article excerpt

Two days after her two-year wedding anniversary, an Arkansas woman was found stabbed approximately 130 times in the breasts, vagina, buttocks, both eyes and forehead. Her husband was charged with the murder.

In Minneapolis, soon after moving to a new apartment, an African-American lesbian found a note reading "Hate Nigger Faggots" at her door. Over the course of several weeks, she and her child endured a host of slurs from neighbors, including: "dyke," "faggot," and "nigger." She and her child moved after a burned cross was left outside their door.

Amy Robinson, a mentally retarded grocery bagger, was abducted by two men in 1998 and used as "target practice" in a field in Fort Worth, Texas. The men shot her with arrows, a pellet gun and, finally, killed her with a pistol. Referring to Robinson's mental retardation, one ofthe men said, "She was suffering anyway. So I guess we just gave her a backdoor."

Across the United States, women are targets of hate crimes every day. Whether you live in Grand Traverse, Michigan or New York City, hate crimes happen. And, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) 1997 Hate Crimes Statistics Report, there were more than 8000 crimes reported which were motivated by bias based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity or national origin. Since the FBI does not track gender bias motivated attacks, there are no statistics available for those hate crimes that specifically target women.

According to Bonnie Campbell, director of the Office of Violence Against Women at the Justice Department, the largest number of complaints her office receives are from women who find state and local authorities fail or refuse to enforce the law, especially restraining orders. Campbell said her office is also concerned about complaints that law enforcement personnel cover up hate crimes against women, citing cases in which police evidence and reports disappear before the women can bring their claims. Even when local law enforcement is willing, many times they lack adequate resources to investigate and successfully prosecute the criminals.

Hate crimes have a chilling effect on every woman's life. The threat of such crimes instills fear in all women (not just the victims), limiting where we work, live and study. And when we speak out, the violence often increases. Fear severely impacts the number of reported hate crimes. …