Campaign to combat rise in gay rape
By Tamara Barak
June 21, 2007
On the eve of the annual gay pride weekend, San Francisco officials
have launched a campaign to encourage gay men who have been raped
to report the attacks.
The tri-lingual awareness campaign will feature posters on every
Municipal Transit Agency bus in San Francisco, District Attorney
Kamala Harris said in a city hall press conference Wednesday.
The posters feature a man with the caption, "I thought he
was a great guy ... until he raped me."
Harris was joined by San Francisco police Chief Heather Fong
and Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who represents the Castro District.
Fong stressed the importance of victims coming forward as soon
as possible in order to preserve evidence.
"When people are afraid to come forward, it almost empowers
those who are harming us," she said.
The campaign is in response to a rise in rapes reported by gay
men. According to Harris, 18 men have reported being raped since
January of this year. Most of the crimes were in the Castro, she
Mark Welsh, who was beaten and raped by two strangers in the
Castro District last year, said he hopes the campaign will result
in more help to victims than he received.
Welsh's ordeal began at 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, when his assailants
hit him from behind as he walked near Sanchez and 19th streets,
he said. The pair then attempted to rob him, beating him and hurling
anti-gay epithets. The men then dragged Welsh between two cars
and raped him before kicking him several more times, he said.
Welsh reported the incident the following day and met with a
police sketch artist. What followed, he said, were frustrating
months of resistance from police.
He said the sketch of his attackers wasn't posted to the Police
Department's Web site until Nov. 5, and wasn't distributed to
patrol officers in the Castro until four months after the attack.
"The beat officers in the Castro had no idea what my attacker
looked like. It was my responsibility, as the victim, to walk
around the Castro and get (the sketches) posted," he said.
The case is considered cold, Welsh said. He believes that if
police had acted more quickly, the men who brutalized him would
be behind bars.
Harris said last year's string of rapes in the Castro, including
Welsh's, was a wakeup call for law enforcement. She announced
that her office has created a specialized lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender unit as part of its Victim Services Division.
"There will be a response that's swift - both in terms
of services to the victims and severe consequences to the perpetrator,"
Jovida Guevara-Ross, executive director of Communities United
Against Violence, said her organization gets calls about rape
and hate violence every year during pride weekend. She reminded
revelers to carry whistles and a charged cell phone and to create
a safety plan with friends.
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