Understanding Violence as a Gay Man

One of the first things that my mom told me when I came out to her was that I had better learn self-defense. Though it's not the warmest thing she's ever said, there's certainly a whole lot of truth in her advice. I learned that sexual minorities experience alarming disparities in interpersonal violence. Knowing this fact didn't make it any easier when I became that statistic myself.

When I was at a friend's apartment helping him clean the place one night, his very intoxicated roommate repeatedly got in the way of the dust I was sweeping. Lightheartedly and sarcastically I asked him, "Are you going to walk through the pile of dust again?" Things escalated quickly when the roommate called me pretentious, picked a fight with me and tried to incite me: "What, you won't fight a f***ing straight guy? Let's do this!" When I reached for my belongings and tried to leave, he punched me harder than I've ever been hit before, right on my nose.

I fled the scene and stood in absolute shock on the sidewalk outside the Hollywood apartment complex, blood flowing from my nose. I asked a passerby if she would let me into her apartment to clean up and call 911, but she declined and walked away. In fear that my assailant would follow me, I tried to find my car. However, the heat of the situation got to my head and it took me 30 minutes to find my vehicle that was parked just down the block. By the time I was safe behind my locked door, I was overcome with shame, believed that my injury was minor and thought that calling 911 would be futile. Two days later a doctor diagnosed me with a broken nose that would require surgery to repair.

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A Broken Nose Selfie

That same day, finally having grasped the gravity of my injury, I entered a Los Angeles police station to file a report. I was greeted not with support or compassion, but with laughter. Despite filing the report under California's minimum 3-year statute of limitations for felonies like the aggravated assault I suffered, law enforcement joked amongst themselves that my report was untimely. After I scolded the officers and called their behavior inappropriate, they agreed to take down my report, albeit riddled with typos. Throughout the process, the officers were quick to point out parts of my story that they doubted. For a moment I felt as if I was on trial myself. This type of behavior discourages victims from filing and following through on their reports, essentially sparing officers from actually doing their jobs.

It's now been a month and a half since the attack, and I have since recovered after a successful nose surgery. My attacker, however, is still out there somewhere. Law enforcement has advised me of the plan to arrest him, but I still have not received notice of his arrest. I am aware that our country's jails and prisons are fraught with atrocities and unfairness, but I still don't believe that violent offenders should be able to carry on without facing consequences for their actions. I feel very uncomfortable that a dangerous man is out on the loose, who can at any moment harm someone else.

Through my physical and psychological recovery, I have reflected and learned a great deal. I've learned that my mom was, in fact, correct -- that self-defense is crucial for populations that are disproportionately impacted by violence (I undoubtedly hold a lot of privilege in this domain as a white man). I've learned that it is critical for victims of violent crimes to notify authorities as soon as possible. It may sound like common sense, but in the moment I was more overcome by shock and embarrassment than the need for justice. I've learned and experienced firsthand the apathy of bystanders. I've learned that the police are not always supportive of or helpful to victims of violent crimes. I've learned that the burden for acquiring justice is not on law enforcement but on the victim. I've learned that a crime can be motivated by bias but still not be classified as a hate crime. Finally, I've learned that healing from violence is possible.

I couldn't have pulled through without the love and support of my friends and family, and I even feel stronger in the aftermath. At this point, though, all I can do is cross my fingers and trust law enforcement to bring my attacker to his day in court. Perhaps then I can begin to feel some closure.