Horrifying Attack Against Lesbian In Nebraska Is Horrifying, Appalling, Heartbreaking

It happened on Sunday: three masked men broke into the home of a 33-year-old lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska, tied her limbs together with zip ties, carved homophobic slurs into her flesh and tried to set her home on fire. The woman managed to crawl, while bleeding and screaming, to a neighbor’s doorstep, and Lincoln police arrived at the scene at approximately 4 AM. Police confirmed that the woman was injured and treated at a local hospital, that anti-gay graffiti was spray-painted inside the home and a fire was set in the kitchen, but burned itself out after causing about $200 in damage. The police declined to release information about the “crude words” carved into the woman’s body.

You may have heard this already, and if you have, you are likely stunned and horrified, as we are. We’ve spent the time between then and now trying to get some direct quotes from contacts we have including the victim’s girlfriend and a vigil organizer but understandably, they haven’t had a minute yet to talk, and we didn’t want to wait any longer to publish something about it.

via lgbtqnation

According to Laya Salumbides Martin-Tardy, a local, the area in which the assault took place is relatively welcoming and peaceful:

I actually live mere blocks from where this terrible crime happened. We live very close to the downtown area of Lincoln. I like to think that this area is well-diversified. Lots of artists, writers, musicians, alternative lifestylers, different faiths and heritages live around here. While there are small pockets of what some consider “sketchy,” I’ve never considered this neighborhood to be dangerous. Quite the contrary. I love this neighborhood. I truly felt as if someone had violated not just the survivor, but the community as a whole.

Katie Flood, a spokesperson for the Lincoln Police Department, stated that “multiple detectives” were working on the case and releasing details could “compromise [their] ability to conduct quality suspect interviews at a later date.” At the present moment, LPD has no known suspects. The attack is being classified as a hate crime.

Flood told the press that “according to our policy any offense is classified as a hate crime when it appears biased regarding someone’s sexual orientation.” A neighbor told ABC’s KLKN affiliate, “When someone takes the time to handcuff someone with a zip tie and carve derogatory comments or words into somebody else’s body, that’s sheer hate and at this point, this is a hate crime.”

via Vigil Against Violence

Tyler Richard, President of Lincoln’s LGBT support organization Outinc, reassured members of the facebook group that he has “been in regular contact with not only the Mayor’s office and LPD, but national organizations that have a history of working with these situations.” Furthermore:

“As said in Outlinc’s media statement, our police department has a strong history of supporting the LGBT community. We were one of the first police departments in the midwest to have an LGBT liaison. Additionally, our Public Safety Director and former Police Chief Tom Casady spoke about his experience in investigating these incidents when he testified in support of the fairness ordinance this spring.

These investigations are very complicated and it often takes a significant amount of time for law enforcement to reveal information. I hope that everyone will recognize the history of support from LPD and allow them to conduct a thorough investigation.”

The community response has been immense. Mere hours after the attack, Martin-Tardy organized a 500+ person candlelight Vigil Against Violence outside of the Lincoln Capitol.

It all started at about noon on July 22. My friend [redacted] called to tell me that someone in the LGBTQIA community here in Lincoln had been assaulted. When she told me the details of what happened, we decided that this was not a matter we could be silent on. We decided to hold the candlelight vigil that very night. That’s when I created a Facebook event page to spread the word as quickly as possible.

via Martin Tardy

Since the vigil and subsequent coverage, the Vigil Against Violence Facebook group has a membership of over 1,600 and vigils are being held all over the country.

Nebraska’s current hate crime laws state that citizens have the right to “live free from violence, or intimidation by the threat of violence, committed against his or her person.” The legislation also “imposes additional penalties” for crimes committed because of a person’s sexual orientation. Given the high profile rape/murder of Brandon Teena in Humboldt County, it’s a relief to know that the state has made some legislative progress.

Yet Lincoln’s queer community has been under strain by ongoing attempts and failures to pass a “Fairness Amendment” which would ban housing and employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. Initially approved by Lincoln’s City Council, an oppositional petition postponed the initiative from going into effect. An official public vote on the Fairness Amendment has yet to be scheduled. Situations like these reveal how quickly the subtle line between intolerance and brutality dissolves.

The Fairness Act hearing got unexpected national press when Jane Sveboda stood before Lincoln’s City Council this May and in protest of the Fairness Amendment and began spouting absurdist, homophobic statements about Hillary Clinton’s lesbianism and anal sex causing intestinal rupture. The video of Sveboda, who it turns out is schizophrenic, went viral.

Tragedies like these reveal precisely how large and strong our community is, and how hard we will fight in Lincoln and elsewhere to end intolerance. According to Martin-Tardy, the attack has really cemented a sense of community among LGBT individuals and their allies:

It’s too bad that something so dreadful had to happen to pull the community together, and I doubt that the people who attacked this woman intended for this kind of reaction. But to see us all put our differences aside and stand together in love and support… it’s been overwhelming. The vibe seems to still be rolling. Through the wonders of social media, people are still sharing messages of love, posting pictu

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Sarah Fonseca diplomatically lives, works, and plays in rural south Georgia. A Lambda Literary fellow, her essays and articles have appeared in The Q Review, Lavender Review, Thought Catalog, Autostraddle and Choice USA's ChoiceWords.

fonseca has written 45 articles for us.

56 Comments

  1. Thumb up 9

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    Anyone wishing to send cards, wishes, or anything else to Rainbow Jane can do so through this address:

    Victim Recovery
    c/o Kirk & Mikolajczyk Law Offices
    PO Box 6787
    Lincoln, NE 68506

  2. Thumb up 2

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    All violent crimes are hate crimes.

    Using certain words doesn’t make one hideous, awful attack any worse than any other.

    Is the shooting in Aurora less horrific because it doesn’t seem to have been fueled by prejudicial beliefs?

    No. Of course not. That’s stupid. Violence is violence no matter what the form.

    I hate the phrase “hate crimes” and I hate legislation about them and I hate that it’s even a thing. It’s horrible, but it’s no less horrible than any sort of tie-up-mutilate-you-and-burn-your-house-down crime. Which, yeah, fucked up but that’s not the first one I’ve heard of.

    *shuffles away mumbling to herself, shaking fist at sky*

    • Thumb up 40

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      When someone is targeted specifically because of a minority trait, such as sexual orientation, the motive behind the crime is of a different nature than other violent crimes. Classifying this brutal attack as a hate crime calls attention to the power imbalance in our society that places LGBTQ citizens at higher risk for assault by the disgusting excuses for human beings like her attackers–who learned their “prejudicial beliefs” from that same society.

      I believe hate crime legislation is important and useful, and failure to understand what happened in Lincoln as such does a disservice to the survivor, and the rest of society. I hope people are shocked into action for the LGBTQ community after this tragic event.

      Sending the survivor unfathomable amounts of love right now.

      • Thumb up 5

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        Yes, thank you for that. Very well put.

        I would also add that the term “hate crime” implies that the act exists because the victim was hated for being whatever the hate was founded on [gay, black, woman, etc.]. The message the hate crime makes is: “You would be safe from violence if you weren’t (in this case) gay. If you would stop being [gay, black, woman, etc.], we would stop violence acts on you. If you would just be like us – we would accept you in society.” The term “hate crime” is an important term because of this, and because everything you just said.

        Lots and lots and lots of love.

    • Thumb up 18

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      The difference is that hate crimes are also a form of terrorism. It doesn’t make one or the other “more horrific,” but the motivation of the murderer does make a difference.

      I think a really good parallel is the designation of first/second degree murder. Let’s say that a man plans to murder his friend, and does so successfully, and then his friend’s roommate comes home unexpectedly early, and he kills her as well. When/if he’s caught, he’s going to have two different charges levied against him: first-degree murder for the premeditated crime of killing his friend, and second-degree murder for the roommate. Both crimes are terrible, and both victims are just as dead, and neither victim is “better” or crime is more “sad” than the other, but motivations matter. They always do. If they didn’t, anyone who ended someone else’s life would just get charged with “murder,” full-stop.

      • Thumb up 13

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        “Hate crimes are also a form of terrorism.”

        THIS. By targeting a person for belonging to a minority, they are also threatening/terrorizing everyone who shares that minority status. Violence with a message = terrorism.

      • Thumb up 21

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        Another analogy I think that works with explaining the difference between hate crimes is to use a nonviolent crime. For example:

        If someone spray-paints their name on the side of their school, that’s still vandalism and against the law but isn’t really harmful to anyone other than sort-of to people who care about the condition of the building. It isn’t a threat, it doesn’t really make any sort of statement that would be of concern to law enforcement. So that person would just be charged with vandalism.

        If someone spray-paints a swastika on the side of a synagogue, however, that’s clearly done with the intent to intimidate members of the Jewish community. That person isn’t just breaking vandalism laws, s/he’s also lodging a threat, and making people feel unsafe. So that person would be charged with vandalism AND a hate crime.

        I think people get stuck on violent crimes and think “But isn’t murder always bad?” Yes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a difference between when someone targets one particular person because of who they individually are/what they individually did/whatever, and targets a person because of their membership in a group. The latter is making a statement that they are likely to be a source of danger for that group in the future.

        • Thumb up 5

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          THIS^

          totally agree that hate crimes need to be distinguished from other acts of violence. The intent is obviously different from mindless crimes or crimes that target specific individuals. Hate crimes target group identities, which not only physically harms the victim, but also threatens the well-being of the whole group. the message behind the act of violence needs to be addressed

      • Thumb up 3

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        I do think that the distinction of hate crime is important here. Yes, it sucks in general, and violence is terrible. However, I don’t think this would have happened if this woman practiced a different sexual orientation. While NO violence is cool, this, specifically, IS a hate crime. This woman was targeted specifically because she is gay.

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        Precisely. The law takes intentions into account All The Time. The argument above has always seemed so weird to me for that reason. Just as we, as a society, have decided it’s morally worse to kill someone with premeditation, we’ve also decided it’s morally worse to commit a violent act as a form of terrorism against a whole class of people than to commit a violent act against an individual. And, okay, if you want to take on that whole structure of thought in criminal justice, fine, but that doesn’t happen — instead, this is always the example that gets singled out.

    • Thumb up 12

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      Amen to Linda’s reply.

      “Using certain words doesn’t make one hideous, awful attack any worse than any other.”

      No one is saying that hate crimes are “worse” than other violent crimes. But it deserves its own classification because it is an attack on a specific kind of people– it is an attack out of prejudice.

      And the more people are aware that prejudice is still very much alive in this country and in this world, like from reported hate crimes like this, the more we can remember and fight to eradicate it.

      So yes, it is a hate crime, it is a hate crime, IT IS A HATE CRIME. And no one ever forget it.

      My love goes out to the victim and her family. I’m so shocked and heartbroken about this.

    • Thumb up 8

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      they are crimes committed on the basis of the minority group someone belongs to. i was raped, targeted BECAUSE i was transgender. my crime and others like it are hate crimes because they are motivated by minority hate and prejudice. there’s a stark difference.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    Super glad I and all my friends are only about half an hour away from here. Sure good to know that crazies like this are on the loose, and apparently I’m not even safe in my own home. Even living in a bad part of LA, I never felt more uncomfortable about my own safety than I do here, right now. And it’s certainly not reassuring, how the police keep tip-toeing around calling it a hate crime. As if it’s not obvious.

  4. Thumb up 5

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    Yo, did these fools take a page from Dolores Umbridge? Here’s hoping the attackers get kidnapped by centaurs and then thrown into Azkaban.

    An effective application of our justice system would work too, I guess.

  5. Thumb up 6

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    I’m from Lincoln, and I’m angry, sad and offended that this happened in my community. Nebraska is not an easy place to lead a life as an openly gay person, and I’m proud of my friends for showing their support for the survivor. Three terrible people committed the crime, but thousands stand behind the survivor.

    Just a small quibble, but Brandon Teena case was based in Richardson County. Humboldt is the name of the nearest town from where the murders were committed.

  6. Thumb up 5

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    I will never understand the hatred some people can carry for others based solely on who they love. The only good thing to come out of this horrific crime is the LGBT community and allies pulling together so that this brave, strong woman knows she’s not alone and telling the attackers that they may have hurt her, but her sisters and brothers will always have her back.

    Between this and the story about the disgusting excuse for a person Eddie Griffin, which I read directly prior to this, I just want to wake my girlfriend and have her hug me ’til I’m no longer despairing at the intolerance and violence of some members of the human race.

    My thoughts are with the survivor tonight, and I hope the police can identify and locate the attackers quickly to give her at least some peace of mind.

  7. Thumb up 3

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    Stories like this make me so scared to live alone. There was a major attack of a lesbian couple not long ago near where I live (a couple was held captive, raped multiple times, and when one of the women attacked the rapist to save her girlfriend, she was stabbed to death) and since then every story like this gives me all kinds of nightmares. :(

    All my best wishes and energy to this woman. The trauma she experienced won’t go away easily, if ever. I hope we all band a little tighter together and that every victim knows how much love their community has for them.

  8. Thumb up 2

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    A chilling reminder that the struggle for equality extends far beyond marriage equality, and concerns basic everyday safety. This is really horrible, especially since she was in her own home when it happened. When the phrase, “the safety of your own home” doesn’t mean anything anymore, that is just terrifying.

    All my best wishes, love and positive energy to the survivor.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    I just read the news and I went speechless. My heart goes out to her and I wish her the very best in her recovery.

    I don’t know why I’m having this thought now and I don’t know whether this is wrong or not, but for the person who did this.. I wish your dick fell off somewhere along the way.

  10. Thumb up 7

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    Fonesca–

    thank you for posting this. These kinds of crimes freak me out. I mean, so do most crimes, but this one especially strikes fear into my heart because it could happen anywhere. To any one of us. And for something as arbitrary and native to us as our hair color, or eye color. It makes me nauseous and afraid. I’m sending out gobs of positive thoughts for the victim and her family.

  11. Thumb up 5

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    This is so unbelievably sad and sickening.

    The worst part for me is the testaments from others that it’s usually a tolerant community where they usually feel safe. So many of us who live in liberal and/or accepting cities (I don’t know how politically liberal Lincoln is) like to think we are safe from these incidents, and then something like this happens to remind us that we’re never really safe. Even in the most tolerant-seeming places, homophobes are everywhere. :(

  12. Thumb up 4

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    i’m going to be the a**hole per usual, but i think this story requires a lil bit of healthy skepticism. seems a little off to me right now.

    the graffiti doesn’t look right, so neat or something, a “small fire” set with gasoline!! that went out by itself causing $200 damage to the floor? Her injuries are easily self-inflicted as opposed to rape or a beating. Carved on her arm and stomach where she can reach. Zip ties but not to something so she couldn’t move and get away (if they indeed wanted to burn her house down)? Nothing was stolen.

    Mind you, I hope to God I am so so wrong in being wary on one hand, and yet of course hope that someone didn’t do this to her. If they did actually do this, it is obviously horrific. But if it’s a case of crying wolf…we all suffer for that one, too.

    • Thumb up 14

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      Your suggestion that this attack was self-inflicted is offensive. I do not agree that your skepticism is healthy or at all warranted. For one thing, the graffiti gave me CHILLS when I saw it, all the more real for its neatness. Secondly, her attackers’ only motive was to terrorize this woman (and the rest of the queer community). They did not care about stealing things because the only thing on their minds was HATE. Details like setting a proper fire or ensuring there was no way to escape were surely beyond their mental capacity.

      Engaging in this kind of doubt and potential victim blaming is completely out of line, especially on this site. This woman is a survivor of major trauma and does not deserve an OUNCE of anything but support and love from her community.

    • Thumb up 3

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      Blue, I agree that there is room to be skeptical for all the reasons you mentioned, and I’m glad you raised the discussion. There have been many examples of fake hate crimes (I can’t pull it up now, but a commenter over at Joe My God had a list) and I think we need to be careful about them.

      But, real or not, I am blown away by the loving response of the Lincoln community. This is really scary, and makes all of us, nationwide, feel threatened. Instead of letting fear be the message, Lincoln has bonded together, and shown the world what love is. I hope my community would have a similar reaction.

    • Thumb up 17

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      You’re not an asshole. It’s definitely important to form your own opinion.

      Yet in instances like this, so much of the scrutiny and skepticism comes from anti-LGBT/anti-feminist groups which are fueled by sexism and (even more) homophobia.

      As a rule of thumb–for me at least–I always side resiliently with the victims of violent crimes until there is a final verdict. And if everything turns out to be faked, so be it. I can live with my jumping the gun. But I’d rather defend someone who might not be innocent than let a person terribly brutalized be dismissed as a liar and a fraud.

      In my book, she’s telling the truth.

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        Great responses, except for the one who thinks its blasphemous, offensive, and “out of line” to think critically. Nowhere did I suggest not to support the victim while the investigation is being conducted, or to treat her as a fraud and a liar. Only that the possibility exists and as freethinking adults it does make sense to entertain that possibility while searching for the truth. I completely understand the need and willingness to get the victim’s back no matter what. But an objective investigation requires considering all possibilities. That shouldn’t be terribly offensive, and I honestly don’t understand why it would be to some.

        • Thumb up 0

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          Fonseca phrased her response much better than mine, and we essentially share the same viewpoint of always siding with the victim until the final verdict. Your critical response felt out of line to me in a sea of supportive comments in the immediate wake of a terrible crime. Also, when you used the phrase “crying wolf,” it triggered me. You response here expressed your viewpoint more clearly than the first one, as I hope mine does here.

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          Agreed, I’m relieved the attack did not really happen. But I would like to formally apologize for my defensive response to your more critical eye, which turned out to be spot-on. I’m just not sure how to navigate these things in the future– do we withhold support until veracity is proven? I can clearly be too quick to support my community, but I’m still in favor of blind support for survivors, and if it turns out to be wrongheaded, I’ll gladly eat my words.

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          no need to apologize.

          always choose to be loving, but being loving doesn’t mean being happily gullible, as one commentator on the new article suggested. i guess that’s fun and romantic in some situations, but not here.

          the most loving thing here is to call Charlie on her bullshit and get her the help she so clearly needs, and to make her aware that what she did is unacceptable and actually does more harm than good. the ends do not justify the means. how many trusting people has she betrayed, who rallied for her? she’s done a huge disservice to the entire community, gay and straight. not cool.

          being nice doesn’t mean being a fool. so no, do not withhold support, of course. don’t harden your hearts, but don’t soften your brains either! it’s not either/or. balance. discern with your heart/wisdom, but do discern, don’t just accept anything uncritically.

    • Thumb up 3

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      I actually hope you’re right. I’d rather have one person be a mentally disturbed attention-seeker than have three people be horrible torturer-and-attempted-murderers.

      It’s not an evil question. “Carved in my flesh” has been falsely claimed before: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1080189/Young-Republican-claimed-Obama-supporter-carved-letter-B-face-robbery-story-police-say.html

      However, many arson attempts do fizzle out quickly (even with gasoline) and an image search on “hate crime graffiti” shows a significant fraction with decent penmanship (but don’t look, it’s vile).

      Most of all, I think anybody unhinged enough to stage something like this as a hoax is not very likely to be able to create a consistent story – if it is a hoax it will probably unravel really soon. This article sounds like it hasn’t started to unravel yet: http://www.omaha.com/article/20120725/NEWS/707259886/0 – so I kind of doubt that it will.

      Anyway, I believe in extending sympathy and support immediately – the worst that can happen is that you’re proven to be too sympathetic and too supportive, which really isn’t a bad thing – while also letting the slow process of investigation and justice handle final decisions.

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      The only problem with such an observation is that it does away with the presumption of innocence for anybody ever accused of committing a crime. Maybe this survivor did or did not but society gives her the benefit of the doubt unless there is evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is not innocent.

  13. Thumb up 15

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    I’m 19 years old and I live in same area of the city that this occurred in. The near-South area, as its called, has always been the oldest area and always the most “sketchy,” though I seriously doubt this had anything to do with the attacks early Sunday. In this area I rent out a beautiful old house with four other queer people.
    All of us are friends and students, and we’re all just really, really happy to be living here in this city… I’ve actually never felt my safety to be so ridiculously compromised before. But this totally shook us. It absolutely shook this house to its core. Not more than 15 blocks away a woman more than 10 years older than all of us (!) was violently attacked in the middle of the fucking night. We don’t want to think about it, of course. But that fear is always going to be there.
    What really breaks me is the insistence of some people that she, somehow, and for whatever reasons, did this TO HERSELF. Can you imagine? There are so many people, here and elsewhere, who actually are convinced that she’s done this to herself for media attention and financial support. Why then would she remain anonymous? Why would she urge her partner and her friends not to say a word? I don’t think I have to convince anyone on this site that this was real, honest hate, and a crime nonetheless. I should hope that I have a safe space here to work out my anger at the situation and the response and somehow be ok again.
    There were hundreds at the vigil. Among them, five members of an all-gay, young college household in the near-South area of Lincoln, And we’re going to continue to live without fear, as best as we are able, because the community here will not stand for anything less. We’ve worked to make it that way. Thank you, Autostraddle, for covering the story.

  14. Thumb up 4

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    Truly heartbreaking to read this. It makes me sick to the stomach that we live in a world where there are people who would commit such horrific acts of pure hate.
    And that they literally could be anywhere and anyone, even people we may come into contact with every day.
    No one should live in fear for their safety just because of their sexual orientation, race, gender etc.
    I will never understand how anyone can carry so much hate in them, much less direct it towards someone they even don’t know.
    It is terrifying that such instances of intolerance and violence serves to do nothing but corrode the already slow progress of humanity.

    Sending all my love and thoughts to the victim and her family, and i hope the perpetrators will be brought to justice soon.

  15. Thumb up 8

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    The survivor is a friend of a friend of mine and this happened where I call home. This has shook me so unbelievably, but not unbelievably at all because a crime of that magnitude motivated or propelled by hate stemming from ignorance is truly one of the most terrifying things anyone and a community can face.

    My heart, soul and thoughts go out to her. All of my energy goes out to her. No one ever deserves to endure something so horrific. Something absolutely needs to be done to make this known, so as to educate and prevent abuse against the LGBT community.

    I refuse to perpetuate negative feelings although it’s difficult, against the attackers or the incredible ugly place from which they were motivated. I refuse to be fearful as an openly gay woman. I refuse to be silent. I refuse to not fight back forever until this is no longer an issue anyone has to experience to any degree.

    Thank you for covering this story. I know it’s difficult to read, but it absolutely deserves everyone’s attention. A threat to one of us, is a threat to all of us.

    • Thumb up 1

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      This is heart breaking and terrifying and I have no words… I hope the survivor gets the support and care she needs and deserves.

      I like what you said about not perpetuating negative feelings. Using hate as a retaliation to hate will get us nowhere and I’m happy you brought that up.

      And it is so scary to think that if we are afraid, they win and will continue to win. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Thumb up 0

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    Oh god. I don’t even know how to respond to an article like this. It just… terrifies the fuck out of me. To still be living in a world where this can happen… it just makes me want to crawl back into the closet and never come out. And I’m sure that’s what those psychopaths would want, but oh god. I don’t want to be afraid. I just don’t know how not to be…

    I hope she can recover from this. I don’t even know how one would go about that, but I really hope she does.

  17. Thumb up 0

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    POLICE NOW BELIEVE THE ATTACK WAS SELF INFLICTED (FAKED)

    Since there is still a link in this article calling for donations to the woman, it’s probably worth noting that police in Lincoln now believe the attack was self inflicted:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/21/justice/nebraska-hate-crime/index.html

    Of course, police believing the attack was faked does not prove that it was in fact faked… but people might want to hold off on donations, etc until an investigate and trial concludes.

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