Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

When Lesbians Are Targets

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

When Lesbians Are Targets

Article excerpt

Attacks against women are often triggered by rejection

In May 1988 Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner embarked on a three-day hike along a Pennsylvania stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Only Brenner returned.

Wight died on the trail, the victim of a gunman who watched the women make love in a secluded wooded area, then opened fire, discharging eight bullets, one of them fatal. Brenner survived five wounds to see her partner's killer, Stephen Roy Carr, sent to prison for life without parole.

Eight years later, in May 1996, Julianne Williams and Lollie Winans began a five-day hike on a Virginia portion of the same trail. Neither Williams nor Winans returned. They died on the trail--their throats slit in an attack still unsolved.

Antiviolence advocates identified a trend when they compared the trail murders with the December 1995 slayings of Michelle Abdill and Roxanne Ellis in Medford, Ore. Suspect profiles indicate the assailant in each crime coolly killed after seeing two women comfortably and affectionately in love with each other. A sense of rejection turned to repulsion and hate.

Robert James Acremant, who abducted Ellis and Abdill, then shot them execution-style in the back of their pickup truck, said his motivation was robbery but added that it was easier to kill the women because they were lesbians. He called the women "sick." In the first trail slaying, Carr's defense attorney claimed that witnessing a lesbian sex act provoked his client to kill.

"These are men who seem to think they are going to teach lesbians how not to be lesbians," says Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of Michigan's Triangle Foundation and a founding member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects. Montgomery and other antiviolence advocates have generally had less to say regarding bias-related slayings of lesbians than of gay men, in part because, statistics suggest, they occur less frequently.

For 1998 the FBI reported 1,439 crimes motivated by victims' sexual orientation--972 of them committed specifically against gay men and 265 against lesbians. The agency reported three anti-gay male slayings that year, but no anti-lesbian homicides.

The NCAVP, in its annual report on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender bias crime, reported 1,830 crimes against gay men and 700 crimes against lesbians in 1998. …

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