Executive Summary - Major Findings

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.

MAJOR FINDINGS

a. Police Searches, Harassment and Assault

b. Bias in Court

c. Mistreatment by Jail and Prison Staff

d. Mistreatment by School Security and Discipline in Middle and High School Administration

Lambda Legal’s survey found a wide range of complaints and reports of disrespect, bias and discrimination from LGBT people and people living with HIV in the areas explored by the survey. Among the most noteworthy findings: 

Police Searches, Harassment and Assault

“I was called a faggot and beaten up by police officers right here in the nation’s capital, then charged with assaulting them and forced to plead guilty to being under the influence of my HIV meds.”

—Andrew, Washington, DC

In our survey, almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) reported having face-to-face contact with the police in the past five years. An alarming percentage of them reported negative, hostile and violent interactions. One quarter of respondents with police contact reported at least one type of misconduct or harassment such as verbal assault, being accused of an offense they did not commit, sexual harassment or physical assault.

  • 10% of respondents with recent police contact reported being physically searched by police or asked to empty their pockets, purse or backpack.
  • 14% of (or approximately one in eight) respondents with police contact in the past five years reported being verbally assaulted—shouted at, taunted, called names—by a police officer.
  • One out of every five respondents (21%) with police contact in the past five years reported that police had a hostile attitude toward them.
  • Respondents were also subjected to sexual harassment (3%) and physical assault (2%)—including being hit or attacked with a weapon.

In our survey, almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) reported having face-to-face contact with the police in the past five years. An alarming percentage of them reported negative, hostile and violent interactions. One quarter of respondents with police contact reported at least one type of misconduct or harassment such as verbal assault, being accused of an offense they did not commit, sexual harassment or physical assault.

An overwhelming majority of those who made a complaint about police misconduct (71%) said that the police failed to fully address that complaint.

Inadequate Police Response

When respondents as crime victims sought out police, many felt police did not fully respond.

  • More than one-third (39%) of respondents who were victims of sexual assault reported that the police did not fully address their complaints about sexual assault.
  • 41% of respondents who had been victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) reported experiencing at least one incident in which police failed to fully address their complaints about IPV.
  • 62% of respondents who had been victims of personal assault reported experiencing at least one incident in which police failed to fully address their complaints about personal assault.

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Bias in Court

“When I went to the court to file my divorce, the clerk tried to require proof of my transgender spouse's birth, forcing me to out her as a trans person. When I said this, the MA state employee began telling me I needed to submit proof of birth to make sure I wasn't lying. This happened in front of a whole packed lobby full of people.”

—Linda

This survey is one of only a few that has explored the bias and discrimination LGBT people and people living with HIV experience in the court system. Consistent with the data about police interactions, it points to some of the ways the promise of fair and impartial proceedings is tainted by homophobia, transphobia and HIV bias.

For the 43% of Protected and Served? survey respondents who had been involved in the court system in the previous five years, negative experiences included:

 

  • Hearing a judge, attorney or other court employee make negative comments about a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression (19%).
  • Feeling their own sexual orientation or gender identity was raised by an attorney or judge when it was not relevant (16%).
  • Having their HIV status raised when it was irrelevant (15%).

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Mistreatment by Jail and Prison Staff

LGBT people and people living with HIV are particularly vulnerable and are often targeted when incarcerated. This survey highlights the fact that in a climate that is already unsafe, prison guards and other staff often contribute to and exacerbate the danger by committing acts of violence against LGBT and HIV-positive people in their custody and by failing to protect them from dangerous or potentially dangerous situations.

Five percent of all survey respondents had been incarcerated in jail or prison in the previous five years. Among them:

  • 7% reported being sexually assaulted by jail or prison staff.
  • 12% reported being physically assaulted by jail or prison staff.
  • 27% reported being sexually harassed by jail or prison staff.
  • 57% reported being verbally assaulted or harassed by jail or prison staff.
  • 60% of those who identified as transgender or gender-nonconforming (TGNC) respondents reported being placed in a single-sex prison or section of jail or prison that did not match their gender identity.
  • Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents who experienced harassment or assault by jail or prison staff reported their negative experiences to another jail or prison staff member, official or monitoring board. Only 9% of those who reported misconduct felt their complaints were fully addressed.

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Mistreatment by School Security and Discipline in Middle and High School 

“Throughout middle and high school I was bullied and teased for the way I talked, walked, wore my clothes, etc. One day I was in middle school English class when I got into an altercation with another classmate. He yelled out to me, 'You and your mom are faggots.' My reaction was so quick. Before I knew it, I slapped him across the face. Both of us were taken to the Vice Principal’s office, and our parents were called in. We explained our sides of the story, and he admitted to using a gay slur. But in the end, he received one day of in-school suspension and mandatory anger management, whereas I received a week of out-of-school suspension and mandatory anger management. I was so upset that no one supported the fact that I was being teased and ridiculed in front of twenty other students.”

—Patrick, Arlington, VA

>It has been well documented that high numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBTQ) middle and high school students experience bullying and harassment. As security and police presence has become more commonplace in middle and high schools, this survey looked at the effects of school security and discipline on LGBTQ students.

Our survey shows that LGBTQ students are often additionally harassed and victimized by the security officers and administrators who are supposed to provide protection and support. Respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 were asked about their experiences in middle and high school. Of those, 68% reported having security personnel or police in their middle or high schools.

Among 18- to 24-year-old survey respondents who had security personnel in their middle or high schools

  • 9% reported being verbally assaulted by school security or police.
  • 14% of reported that school security were hostile toward them.
  • 23% said they had heard school security or police use anti-LGBTQ language.

In addition, 18- to 24-year-old survey respondents reported high rates of discipline, including detention and suspension.

  • 19% reported that they felt they were treated harshly by school officials because of their LGBTQ identity.
  • 20% reported being suspended.
  • Over half (57%) of reported being sent to detention in middle and/or high school.

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Disproportionate Rates of Misconduct Reported by Marginalized Groups >