“I can tell you that perpetrators have selected victims based on a belief that they are less likely to report the incident to police … an individual may not be out or identify as a lesbian, gay or transgender and is therefore less likely to come forward.”
– Equality Michigan Director of Victim Services, Nusrat Ventimiglia
FERNDALE- A 44-year-old man was severely beaten and robbed after bringing a stranger home from a bar last week. According to police, 38-year-old Alesandro Signorelli met the victim Oct. 29 at Adam’s Apple, a gay bar in Detroit. They spent the night together, and Signorelli returned the following night. The next morning, when the victim tried to go to work, Signorelli attacked the man, punching him repeatedly in the face and attempting to suffocate him with a shower curtain.
Signorelli also threatened the victim with a kitchen knife, and forced him to gather items from the house to steal, including prescription drugs and a television. At approximately 7:45 a.m., when the victim saw an opportunity, he ran from his home to a neighbor’s, who called the police.
The attacker fled and was apprehended by Detroit Police two days later at a drug house the police had under surveillance. Signorelli was recently released from prison and was on parole at the time of the attack.
Equality Michigan, an organization that provides support and advocacy for the LGBT community, is currently working with the victim. The organization also tracks crime statistics in Michigan. Director of Victim Services, Nusrat Ventimiglia, says dating-related assault is one of the issues Equality Michigan is working to bring greater attention to.
From October 2010 to September 2011, Equality Michigan has documented eight cases of sexual assault, provided services to nine survivors of victims of homicide and three survivors of robbery, 14 survivors of violent crimes and 167 survivors of hate crimes. Because of issues in reporting, Ventimiglia said that it is likely these numbers are low.
“I can tell you that perpetrators have selected victims based on a belief that they are less likely to report the incident to police, whether because of the lower reporting rates due to the historically poor police response and attitudes, or due to the fact that an individual may not be out or identify as a lesbian, gay or transgender and is therefore less likely to come forward after being victimized as a result of a pick-up crime,” Ventimiglia said. She did note that Ferndale is different than many communities where victims may seek police help. “The Ferndale Police have been excellent partners and committed to protecting all Ferndale residents, with great responsiveness and sensitivity to the particular needs of the LGBT community.”
Ferndale Police Lt. William Wilson has a simple solution for how to avoid being a victim of an attack such as this, which is “not bring somebody home from the bar.”
Equality Michigan has issued a series of safety guidelines in response to the recent attack:
– Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.
– Think about an escape route in advance, in case of danger.
– Look for well lit, open and secure areas in which to meet.
– If you get bad vibes, feel uneasy or get butterflies, your gut instinct is telling you something is wrong … don’t go with them!
– Never show that you feel intimidated, frightened or “out of control.”
– Never let the pick-up know you are alone. Let them think that you have a friend that knows where you are.
– If you are alone, carry a phone.
– At any sign of trouble:
– Make as much noise as possible.
– Run and scream “Fire!” as loud as you can.
– Carry a whistle or personal alarm.
– If forced to fight, use whatever you can as a weapon – your stilettos, bag, sharp ring, belt buckle or anything that will inflict pain.
– Strike vulnerable areas of the body – eyes, throat, nose, fingers, balls, knee, feet – these hurt the most.
-Create as much noise as possible.
-Be cautious about revealing information that could identify you. For example, if you give someone your listed phone number, they can get your real name and street address.
-For your first meeting, pick a place that’s public and neutral. If you’re traveling to visit them in their town or neighborhood, you should pick a place you’re comfortable with when you arrive.
-Always carry a cell phone. This will allow you to call 911 at any time. If finances are tight, purchase a pre-paid cell phone.
-Know that, no matter what, violence is never your fault.
To learn more about how to protect yourself against violence, or to report a bias incident or hate crime, call the Department of Victim Services at Equality Michigan at 1-866-962-1147 or provide a narrative account of the situation at firstname.lastname@example.org.