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The psychological effects of hate -crime victimization based on sexual orientation bias: Ten case studies

Monique Noelle, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Quantitative studies have shown that anti-bisexual, gay, and lesbian (BGL) hate crimes have greater psychological impact on BGL victims than do non-hate-motivated crimes of similar severity (Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 1999), contribute to psychological distress in BGL people (Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 1995), and can cause BGL people to remain closeted (D'Augelli, 1992; Pilkington & D'Augelli, 1995). The present study explores the possible mechanisms and sources of the greater impact of hate crimes on BGL victims. In this qualitative research, I investigated the psychological effects of anti-BGL hate crimes through in-depth interviews with 10 BGL people who perceived that they were victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation bias. Interviewees were 4 lesbian women, 2 bisexual women, and 4 gay men, and 9 of the 10 were White. They ranged in age from 20 to 50 and represented a wide range of degree of sexual orientation disclosure. Each participated in one or two interviews of one to two hours, which were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically, using qualitative analysis software (NVivo) that facilitated coding and sorting of data. Victimization experiences included violent crimes (3), harassment at work and school (2), harassment in the neighborhood (2), and multiple incidents of harassment (3). Results are 10 case studies that elucidate the effects that hate crimes had within the context of each individual's life and history. Each case study presents the participant's coming-out history, and previous traumatic and bias-related experiences, as well as hate-crime experience(s) and perceived sequelae. Three case studies also include accounts of relevant judicial proceedings, and two include reviews of results by the participants. Findings within and across cases are discussed, as well as strengths and limitations of the study and implications for future research. Results suggest factors that may contribute to the relatively more severe psychological impact of hate crimes, including: lesser availability of family support; disruption of BGL identity and coming out processes; intrusion into romantic relationships; damaged expectations of how one will be viewed and treated as a BGL person in the world; a generalized sense of anger about the victimization; and secondary victimization.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Noelle, Monique, "The psychological effects of hate -crime victimization based on sexual orientation bias: Ten case studies" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110536.