The lead author of RTI International’s study of victimization against members of LGBTQ+ communities spells out three “potential strategies” for dealing with public safety issues.

Tasseli McKay, Shilpi Misra, and Christine Lindquist of RTI authored the report, titled “Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?” The 56-page report is based on a review of studies about LGBTQ+ issues over the past two decades. McKay, who earned a Masters in public health at UNC-Chapel Hill, is  a Social Science Researcher, Center for Justice, Safety & Resilience at RTI.

In response to questions from WRAL TechWite. McKay, spelled out recommendations.

“Our study points to three potential strategies that could help to address the enormous public education, public health, and public safety issues associated with anti-LGBTQ+ victimization:

(1) Create safer environments for youth. LGBTQ+ youth, particularly gender nonconforming youth and those who come out at younger ages, are in urgent need of safe and tolerant environments.

“Competency and advocacy training for school psychologists and teachers—who generally report supportive attitudes toward LGBTQ+ students but a lack of knowledge and skills to advocate for them—could help to create more supportive, less hostile school climates (Dragowski et al., 2016). Fostering the further development of gay-straight alliances in schools, which seem to offer some protection against school-based victimization risk, is another promising approach (Marx & Kettrey, 2016).

“Although secondary schools are not permitted to ban gay-straight alliances if they allow other extracurricular groups (per the Federal Equal Access Act of 1984), school principals still commonly take measures to exclude them (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015). Such discriminatory practices must be addressed and replaced with active support for groups and services that make schools safer. Longstanding calls to create alternative environments for LGBTQ+ youth to spend free time away from home safely (e.g., Russell et al., 2001) are still highly relevant as well.

(2) Improve and expand resources for LGBTQ+ victims. Affirming and culturally responsive services for LGBTQ+ victims are critical, given the high prevalence of victimization and the fact that help-seeking often requires that LGBTQ+ victims disclose one or more stigmatized experiences, such as minority sexual identity or sexual experience, minority gender identity or nonconforming gender expression, or violence within the family.

“Such efforts might involve expanding on (and better funding) emerging models developed by the domestic violence advocacy community (e.g., Quinn, 2010) and longstanding efforts by LGBTQ+ community centers in many cities to connect victims with available resources.

“In addition, given reluctance among LGBTQ+ victims (particularly those in the most vulnerable groups) to seek police help, LGBTQ+ victim safety might be best supported by efforts to expand community-based restorative justice initiatives (Waters et al., 2016), such as Spirit House’s pioneering Harm Free Zone Project in North Carolina.

(3) Address policies that reinforce a broader culture of anti-LGBTQ+ bias and discrimination.

The evidence reviewed here suggests that creating a nondiscriminatory climate at the societal and organizational levels is an important aspect of preventing anti-LGBTQ+ violence and also lessening the severity of its impact. Yet recent state legislative initiatives, such as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 and North Carolina’s “bathroom” bill of 2016, could potentially impact the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals by signaling normalized discrimination (Wang et al., 2016).

“Such policies are not conducive to public health and public safety. In addition, public schools charged with ensuring equal access to educational resources (U.S. Department of Education, 2014) should create environments where LGBTQ+ children do not have to choose between getting an education and keeping themselves safe.”