Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Explaining Antigay Violence Using Target Congruence: An Application of Revised Routine Activities Theory

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Explaining Antigay Violence Using Target Congruence: An Application of Revised Routine Activities Theory

Article excerpt

This research examines predictors of antigay violence (physical assault, sexual assault, and property damage) using Finkelhor and Asdigian's (1996) revised routine activities theory, which predicts that target congruence increases victimization risk. Results indicate about half of the sample experienced at least one type of victimization, while 25% experienced two or more types. Physical violence was the most common type of antigay victimization, with property damage and sexual assault occurring less often. Having a higher level of contact with gay/lesbian organizations and being out of the closet or open about sexual orientation increases the risk of both physical assault and property damage. More frequent drinking to intoxication also increases the risk of antigay-motivated physical assault. The sexual assault model was not significant. Implications for future research and prevention are discussed.

Keywords: sexual prejudice; hate crimes; bias crimes; homophobia; routine activities; target congruence

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 15.7% of the 9,035 hate crime offenses reported in 2004 were motivated by sexual orientation bias (Uniform Crime Reports, 2004) . The National Criminal Victimization Survey (2000-2003) suggests a slightly higher proportion of about one in six incidents (Harlow, 2005). Common offense categories include intimidation, property destruction/vandalism, and violent offenses including physical and sexual assault. The incidence of sexual orientation bias is comparable to that motivated by religious bias, but unlike the latter, where victims most commonly report property damage or vandalism, bias towards gays and lesbians is more likely to involve a violent offense (Dunbar, 2006; Strom, 2001).

Antigay violence negatively impacts both individuals and society. Victims of antigay violence report psychological distress including posttraumatic stress, depression, anger, anxiety (Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 1999; Herek, Gillis, Cogan, & Glunt, 1997; Rose & Mechanic, 2002), a heightened sense of vulnerability, fear of crime (Berrill, 1990; Herek et al., 1997; Herek et al., 1999), as well as possible isolation and loss of connection with the gay community (Berrill, 1990). Daily life functioning is more severely impacted for gay victims when compared to those experiencing religious bias (Dunbar, 2006). Besides the effects of the assault or primary victimization, secondary victimization occurs when a victim's sexual orientation is disclosed and others respond in a negative way including eviction, job loss, and shunning by friends and family (Berrill & Herek, 1990).

Victims also experience financial loss due to property damage, medical bills, and time lost from work. In the case of homicide, family and same-sex partners deal with the loss of a loved one as well as self-blame. The gay community also suffers when survivors cope by withdrawing or hiding their sexual orientation (Garnets, Herek, & Levy, 1992).

Societal costs include hours of lost productivity, diversion of resources to prosecute and incarcerate offenders, and a breakdown in social trust. In writing the unanimous majority opinion affirming the constitutionality of hate crime statutes, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist writes "hate crimes inflict distinct emotional harm on their victims and can trigger greater social instability" (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2005). Precisely because of the cost to individuals and society, it is important to understand why antigay violence occurs and what prevention strategies will prove effective.

Past studies of antigay-motivated violence have tended to focus on the issue of fear or prejudice. For example, offenders are known to have higher levels of homophobia than nonoffenders (Franklin, 2000; Rey & Gibson, 1997), and Herek (2000) contends that sexual prejudice contributes to antigay behavior. We agree, but focusing only on prejudice as a motivator is limiting because the official definition of a hate crime does not require hate or prejudice but evidence that an individual is targeted and victimized because of perceived group membership including race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and disability (Harlow, 2005). …

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