These crimes can't always be avoided, but there are some precautions you can take as a LGBT person to help minimize your chances of being attacked.
- Avoid Dark or Isolated Places
Predators can lurk anywhere, but there are fewer people in quiet places and empty street that can assist you should you need help. So, be sure to stay in areas where there are many people. Dark places such as alleys and parking structures should also be avoided. Besides giving potential attackers a place to hide, darker places tend to make it more difficult for you to see what or who is around you.
- Know Your Surroundings
Avoid surprises by knowing what and who's around you at all times. Does the neighborhood you're visiting have an anti-gay reputation? Does the bar you're heading to welcome gay patrons? Be aware and consider the answers to these questions and any others that may affect your safety.
- Never Travel Alone
Try to travel or commute with a buddy, friend or person you trust. Safety can come in numbers, especially when walking at night or in unknown places.
- Know Where You Are
Make a mental note of your location, street names, intersections and landmarks. Not only will this help you get to safety should you need to, the authorities are better able to locate you should you call for assistance. You can save valuable seconds by knowing your location.
- Say No to Strangers
Never except rides from strangers and always trust your instincts. If you are stranded or in a bind, call a relative or friend to assist you and wait for them in a well-lit and busy area.
- Plan An Escape Route
This may seem like an activity reserved for spies like 007 or bank robbers, but it's always a good idea for everyone to plan an exit or visually identify an escape route in every situation (the club, a parking lot, the convenience store, etc.). In a situation where you have to act fast, knowing an escape route can buy you valuable seconds.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Ready
You may be able access your cell phone quickly, but how fast can you dial emergency numbers? Many cell phones come with speed dial features or programmable codes for quick access to numbers. Program your local police station or 911. Take a few seconds to practice accessing emergency number in haste (Don't actually dial during your practice run, but be prepared to do it if you find yourself in danger). Even one dry run can help you out of a potentially unsafe situation.
- Leave a Trail
Find a trusted friend or family member whom you can keep updated on your whereabouts. While on a blind date some time back, the guy that I was with made it a point to call his best friend to let him know that a) everything was ok, b) what color car I drove and c) my license plate number. At first I thought his actions were extreme, but soon realized how impressive it was that he was concerned enough for his own safety to leave a trail. If you prefer to have more privacy (especially when meeting strangers) leave your destination at home on a sticky note or where it can be easily found. Even if you don't want to disclose your destination, leave the person's name, number and some other means of description where it can be easily found. That way you can be helped more quickly.
LGBT people too often fall victim to random acts of violence, most of which don't get national attention like the Matthew Shepard attack. That's why making these safety techniques standard practice can greatly increase your chances of avoiding a hate crime.
If you've already been a victim of a hate crime, here's how to get help and take action.