LGBTQ advocacy on federal hate crimes may assist in justice for Jennifer Daugherty

I was horrified to the point of weeping when I sat in my office and caught a PG tweet about the brutal violation of the life of Jennifer Daugherty. I've worked with adults with mental and developmental disabilities for several years so I got right away the depravity of how she was victimized and murdered.  It was a gut wrenching, hearthbreaking story and so incredibly awful to think about her suffering, that I was amazed at her sister's willingness to come forward and relive it over and over again.  Awed, even.

Yesterday, the Post-Gazette ran a piece about the potential to apply the newly expanded hate crimes protections to Ms. Daugherty.  This would allow for federal resources to be used investigating and prosecuting the crime, which could be a big help in bringing her sex alleged murderers to justice.  A fitting justice. 

Many of you might not realize that persons with disabilites were not protected on a federal level with regard to hate crimes. You might not even know that people with disabilities are targets of hate crimes.

Prosecutors must show the violence was directly related to the victim's disability in order for the act to qualify as a hate crime, Mr. Decker said. For example, he said, an attacker's animus might be revealed in epithets uttered during the crime.

In October, the U.S. Justice Department released what it called the “First National Study on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities.”

The study showed that people with disabilities who were between the ages of 12 and 19 and 35 and 49 were more than twice as likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled people in the same age groups, and people with mental disabilities were more often victimized than people with other kinds of disabilities. Nearly 20 percent of victims interviewed said they “believed that they became a victim because of their disability,” the Justice Department said

If you have friends or family members with disabilities, you probably are familiar with the fact that people are often targets. Predators look for perceived weakness. Ms. Daugherty trusted that these people were her friends.  They didn't just trick her into doing something stupid.  They brutally assaulted, tortured and murdered her because they were well aware (I believe) that her disability made her suceptable to them … the media softens it with “used her trusting nature against here” language, but I read this as them using her disability to their advantage to carry out whatever sick pleasures they derived from the brutal attack. 
 
The expansion of the hate crimes legislation owes a lot of debt to the LGBTQ community which lobbied tirelessly to ensure that sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression where included in the protected classes. 
 
Our efforts got that bill passed and that bill might serve to help bring justice to a victim of a brutal crime because of another protected class included in the bill. Your advocacy might help Ms. Daugherty's family find some small measure of consolation in what is possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to a family.  I truly cannot think of anything more heinous to have to live with than wondering about the suffering she endured.  It makes me weep now to even write that sentence.
 
Thank you for being a part, in whatever way, of passing this important legislation.  Equal rights under the law should include everyone.  Protecting people who are targeted because they belong to a particular group fights evil and injustice. 
 
This is evidence of how those who are oppressed under the law have a moral imperative to unite in the call for justice. There's no way to parse out which advocates made the impact — the important point is finding intersections for equality and using them to promote a most just society. 
 
 
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