According to, Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Victims of Hate Violence & Intimate Partner Violence “A Joint Policy Report by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs”, published in 2010, we know that;
“ … these (LGBTQ) individuals and communities continue to experience significant degrees of discrimination and violence, ranging from government-sanctioned discrimination to a wide range of crime victimization, including assault, harassment, stalking, sexual violence, and homicide.”
Prior to October 1, 2014 when the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project was initiated with funding from the Victims of Crime Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act there were no anti-violence programs in Alabama specifically designed to support the underserved gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer survivors of crime. Since October we have been witnesses to a tremendous need for the services that we are now providing to the underserved population of LGBTQ Alabamians.
Currently we are providing direct services in Huntsville and Florence with plans to have services available in Birmingham by June 2015. The 2014 estimated population of Madison County is 350,299. The 2014 estimated population of Jefferson County is 660,793, just slightly less than two times the population of Madison County. Considering that the data which follows is for the first six (6) month period when our services were available in Madison County (Huntsville) we can expect the number of LGBTQ people and others coming to us for support to continue to increase as agencies and the community become more aware of our existence and the available services that we provide. When services are available in Jefferson County (Birmingham) in June 2015 we can expect a significant and rapid influx of LGBTQ survivors of crime to seek out our services and/or be referred by other agencies such as our collaborative partner Birmingham AIDS Outreach.
During the first six (6) months of the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project from October 1, 2014 to March31, 2015 we witnessed a significant increase in the numbers of survivors of crime coming to us for support. When the program began in October 2014 we served two (2) counseling clients with direct services. By the end of March 2015 this number had increased to forty (40). We began by offering direct services in Huntsville and were quickly able to provide counseling to survivors of crime in Florence as well. Our volunteer counselor and a contracted counselor in Florence are currently providing services to three (3) clients in that community.
During the first nine (9) months of implementation Free2Be Safe AVP provided:
· 318 counseling sessions
· 214 participants attended our Youth, Young Adult, andTransgender support groups (154 total attendance not unique attendees)
· 52 referrals to other agencies and places for support
Also during the first nine (9) months of implementation Free2Be Safe AVP provided direct services in the form of counseling, support groups, resource referrals, and/or case management to:
· 46 survivors of Domestic Violence
· 11 survivors of Adult Sexual Assault
· 4 Adults molested as a child
· 1 survivor of Homicide Victim
· 67 individuals experiencing Harassment
· 11 Others: oppression/abandonment/bullying/etc.
During the first nine (9) months that the Free2Be Safe AVP has served survivors of crime in Alabama we have become increasingly aware of the need for our services throughout Alabama. As we present professional development workshops to services providers across Alabama and as we attend collaborative meetings of service providers we hear over and over how our services are needed. An example of this happened on Thursday, May 14, 2015:
One of our Counselors Samantha Dickens and our MSW intern attended the Jackson County Coordinated Community Response (CCR)/Domestic Violence Coalition (DVC) in Scottsboro, AL. When asked to introduce herself and her agency, Samantha described Free2Be as an agency providing domestic violence and sexual assault counseling to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The response from the other service providers was enthusiastic with the president of CCR stating, “This is a population we have not yet moved to explore.” One member of the group, Mrs. Tate, stated that she is excited to have Free2Be at this CCR meeting because it is needed. She acknowledged that the LGBTQ community faces a great deal of domestic violence. She and other members appreciated that Free2Be is willing to go to clients in Jackson County and that Free2Be recognizes the difficulty that rural populations face in accessing services. Free2Be was welcomed to this CCR meeting and invited to continue returning to CCR meetings.
While the existence of the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project is providing support and safe places where LGBTQ survivors of crime can find direct services we still have a tremendous amount of work to do in Alabama. The young people who attend our weekly Free2Be Youth group are very insightful. Data collection from our Free2Be Youth support group on May 11,2015 through a focus group format revealed the following feelings and concerns. Our Youth reported:
· Violence against gender diverse people must be under-reported because you hardly ever hear about it – but you know it is going on because it is happening to you, your friends, and other people you know
· Trans women need the most protection – especially women of color
· There are a lot of psychological/emotional undertones of dislike/hate everywhere you go
· EMS people just do their job without thinking about how it feels to you, and some even stop helping once they find you are a different gender than they initially perceived you as
· Transgender people definitely have more trouble getting help with domestic violence
These Youth and others like them are the future of Alabama. It is our responsibility and role as adults to provide them with a safe environment where they can grow and flourish free from the constant oppression and fear that generations of LGBTQ people have lived with in Alabama. While it is our goal to witness the end of the need for all services for survivors of crime in our society we realistically know that we must not waver in our commitment to be present for those who need our help.
While LGBTQ people are individually part of the majority population as well as every minority group we are also a truly underserved population. This is especially true in the Southern United States. According to the, OUT IN THE SOUTH “Building Resources for LGBTQ Advancement in the U.S. South, published in 2014 we know that;
“More than 3 in 10 LGBT adults live in the South. As such, the South is home to more LGBT adults than any other region of the country … (however) each year the South receives only 3-4 percent of domestic LGBT funding.” Funding from domestic LGBT funding sources for LGBT programs in the South equals about $1.71 per LGBT adult. Forty-seven (47) percent of this funding is for health related programming such as funding for HIV/AIDS services. From this data we know that funding for the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project continues to be critical to the underserved LGBTQ people of Alabama. This funding directly supports survivors of crime and helps current and future generations live a safer and healthier life as a vital part of the population of Alabama.