Richmond lesbian’s murder spotlights issue of underreported LGBTQ domestic violence
Ava Tucker, a 26-year-old resident of Henrico County, was stabbed to death by her ex-girl friend last week – and advocates are hoping the terrible crime can help address the issue of underreported domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships.
Tucker’s ex, Sheena Wilson, walked blood-soaked into Richmond Police Department’s First Precinct and confessed to the murder; but it doesn’t have to happen again.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) tracks cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) around the country and part of that work is an annual report detailing, best they can, cases of domestic violence between same-sex couples.
Just last week, they released their report of 2015 incidents and it found just under 2,000 cases of IPV reported to its 17 member organizations across the country. Its findings, admittedly skewed because they are self-reported and require knowing about the org to get involved, showed 43% of survivors identified as gay, 19% identified as lesbian, 16% identified as heterosexual, 10% identified as bisexual and 9% identified as queer. 64% were between the ages of 19 and 39 and a majority and 54% identified as people of color.
13 homicides were reported between LGBTQ couples with a staggering 77% of them happening between couples of color. A little less than half were transgender and all were under the age of 40.
“So often, peoples experiences of violence are often erased in our community,” said Stacie Vecchietti, Director of Virginia Anti Violence Project. She said even the term”domestic violence” is almost exclusively associated with heteronormative couples, a straight couple with the female being the victim. And those narratives around what this violence looks like can impede an LGBTQ person to properly identify or report violence in their relationship.
“It doesn’t match with our community,” she said. “So when people are in relationships that are violence in a queer or trans context, its hard to even name that it’s happening.”
Another barrier that Vecchietti and The NCAVP recognize is the history people of color and trans folks have with police officers – the belief is this can further suppress a person’s willingness to come forward when they’re the victim of violence from a partner.
“Given what we know about Black and Brown folks experiences state-sanction violence, its easy to understand why someone might be hesitant to reach out for help when they’re not sure what the response is going to be,” she said.
There are efforts to change that relationship. Captain Linda Tony is Henrico County Police’s LGBT police liaison, a position which aims to dull the edge that exists between the two communities.
“We want to encourage everybody to report acts [of violence] and not be worried about their relationship,” Capt. Tony said. “It’s about getting the help the need.”
And Tony works to make herself available.
“I might not be the one to respond (to the 911 call), but I’m going to talk them through it,” she said. “That is part of what my role is.”
But often that call to Captain Tony can be the last straw, and Vecchietti and the VAVP work to offer support before the police have to get involved. They offer a national 24 hour hotline as well as a text line for folks who are more comfortable with that format. Both are confidential.
And while its too late for folks like Tucker, Vecchietti hopes the conversation around her death can help people in LGBTQ relationships open up if they are being abused.
“Getting conversations about violence in our community when we feel like we’re fighting for our lives externally,” she said, noting the stigma around same-sex relationships can add to the pressure to pretend everything is okay. “It makes it additionally harder and further isolates people who are experiencing violence.”
Virginia Anti-Violence Project contacts:
24 support hotline – 1866-356-6998 (Virginia)
24 text line – 804-793-9999
Richmond phone line – (during normal business hours) – 804 -925-9242
Regional LGBTQ Police Liaisons:
Henrico: Capt. Linda Tony - 804-501-4860
Richmond: Capt. Dan Minton 804-240-9158
Chesterfield: Corp. Elliot Anderson 804- 543-5210
Top image – Tucker (top) and Wilson (bottom)
“Fruit plus hanging with my bestie, what’s not to love?”February 27, 2017
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