SAN FRANCISCO — A 28-year-old woman was jumped by four men, taunted for being a lesbian and left naked outside an abandoned apartment building, authorities said.
Detectives say the 28-year-old victim was attacked on Dec. 13 after she got out of her car, which bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The men, who ranged from their late teens to their 30s, made comments indicating they knew her sexual orientation, said Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan.
Along with the brutality of the assault, the fact that the woman may have been targeted because she was gay has unnerved the officers assigned to the case, Gagan said. They went public with some details about the case over the weekend hoping it would motivate witnesses to come forward with information about the suspects, who have not been apprehended.
"It just pushes it beyond fathomable," he said. "The level of trauma, physical and emotional, this victim has suffered is extreme."
Authorities are characterizing the incident as a hate crime, but declined to reveal why they think the woman was singled out based on her sexual orientation. Gagan would say only that the victim lived openly with a female partner and had the rainbow flag sticker on her car.
The Saturday night attack lasted about 45 minutes and involved three separate locations, including the woman's car, according to detectives. It started when one of the men approached her as she crossed the street, struck her with a blunt object, ordered her to disrobe and sexually assaulted her on the spot with the help of the other men.
When the group saw another person approaching, they forced the victim back into her car and took her to the burned-out apartment building, where she was raped again inside and outside the vehicle. The alleged assailants took her wallet and drove off in her car. Officers found the car two days later abandoned elsewhere in the city.
The woman sought help from a nearby resident, who summoned police. Although the victim said she did not know her attackers, detectives hope someone in the community knows them. One of the men went by the nickname "Blue" and another was called "Pato," according to authorities.
Gay rights advocates note that hate crimes based on sexual orientation went up nationwide and accounted for 16 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, the last year for which statistics were available. Gay, lesbian or transgender people were the victims in five of the nine bias-related murders tallied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that year, but neither of the two rapes.
Avy Skolnik, a coordinator with the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, noted that gay, lesbian and transgender crime victims may be more reluctant than straight victims to contact the police.
The organization, a network of nonprofits working to reduce anti-gay bias in 35 cities, counted 70 sexual assaults involving gay or transgender victims in 2007. In the vast majority of cases, the alleged perpetrators were straight men, Skolnik said.
"Assailants target LGBT people of all gender identities with sexual assault," he said. "Such targeting is one of the most cruel, dehumanizing, and violent forms of hate violence that our communities experience."
Skolnik said the group has noticed a dramatic spike in the number of bias-related murders this year involving gay and lesbian victims and plans to analyze the data to see if the increase may be related to the gay marriage bans that appeared on ballots this year in California, Arizona and Florida.
"Anytime there is an anti-LGBT initiative, we tend to see spikes both in the numbers and the severity of attacks," he said. "People feel this extra entitlement to act out their prejudice."