Although there has been immense progress that continues to grow in our society, it’s still common for many members of the LGBTQ community to feel unsafe, particularly when it comes to dating. With technology assisting many in their connection with other human beings, there are those (of all sexualities) who are going beyond the traditional dating route, and instead are finding companions and lovers in chat rooms and online dating websites.
Recently, this topic has been heavily discussed amongst those involved in The Anti-Violence Project (Facebook, Twitter), an organization and 24-hour hotline that provides free, confidential assistance and advice to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected people in all of New York’s five boroughs. This past month around Valentine’s Day, many LGBTQH New Yorkers quietly gathered to share their concerns and thoughts over safety in the online dating world, and about being in general life-threatening situations. This meeting may have also been a consequence of recent city news: a string of homicides involving gay men has been occurring, the majority of them involving strangling. While police reports that these cases may not be connected, some of them may still be a result of hate crimes.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Ejeris Dixon who works with The Anti-Violence Project, described the Valentine’s Day gathering: “Some people spoke about their own experiences of very life-threatening violence and how it feels to survive. We had to do a lot of work of helping people not blame themselves or others for meeting people on the Internet. It’s been a constant debate: some folks saying that maybe we shouldn’t do this, and other people were like, ‘No, it’s OK.’”
In 1980 Chelsea, The Anti-Violence Project was born after numerous neighborhood anti-gay violence. Through direct client services, community organizing and public advocacy, the AVP has been offering a safe haven for hose in the LGBTQH that seek confidential assistance. AVP was named a White House Champion of Change for work on intimate partner violence within LGBTQH communities, and in 2010, their Board of Directors received the Alan Morrow Prize for Board Excellence from the Stonewall Foundation. The AVP has done both state and national work.
Client services include a free, bilingual (English/Spanish), 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis intervention hotline (212-714-1141) that is directed by professional counselors and trained volunteers. AVP has community-based direct services and outreach projects in all five boroughs of New York City, including projects specifically designed for transgender and gender non-conforming people of color in New York. The organization also has three distinct support groups for Hate Violence, Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence survivors which feature a supportive and focused curriculum to move people from trauma to healing. For legal consultations, the AVP also operates a legal clinic for LGBTQR victims and survivors of domestic violence.
For community outreach and public advocacy, The Anti-Violence Project collaborates with community leaders and community-based organizations to raise awareness about the intersection of LGBTQH identity and violence through coalitions, networks and other collaborative work. AVP does outreach through a SafeBar/Safe Nights Program, which is designed to stop pick-up crimes and date-associated violence before it happens by working with bars and clubs to alert their patrons and staff of the dangers of pick-up crimes, distributing safety tips and encouraging reporting such incidents to AVP. The organization also provides education and support for survivors of violence to share their stories to education the public on violence prevention.
Currently, the Anti-Violence Project has several working campaigns, including AVP’s Hate Violence Committee, Real Talks and Communities United for Police Reform. The Hate Violence Committee aims to build anti-hate violence initiatives on issues such as bathroom safety for TGNC people, police violence against and within our communities, and survivor-led forums to increase awareness. Real Talks serves as a space for both survivors of LGBTQ intimate partner violence (IPV), and other community members/allies, to discuss and increase safety. Recent topics have included safety planning for a loved one in an abusive relationship, identifying IPV, and resources in the community. With Communities United for Police Reform, one of the main goals is to pass the Community Safety Act, a 4-piece package of landmark legislation that we will bring more accountability to the NYPD, and also put an end to discriminatory policing (based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, etc.), and mandate that police officers provide information on rights when searching individuals on the street.