UVA Assault Prompts Call for Expanded Protections

Virginia Anti-Violence Project calls for legislators to add sexual orientation, gender identity to hate-crimes provision

By John Riley
Published on November 30, 2012, 6:21pm | Comments

A Virginia nonprofit organization is calling on the members of the General Assembly to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia laws regarding bias-motivated assaults following a Nov. 15 attack on the University of Virginia's (UVA) Charlottesville campus that appears to have been motivated by the victim's perceived sexual orientation.

The Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) noted in a Nov. 26 email to supporters that Virginia law already has hate-crimes provisions for those who target victims based on race, religious conviction, color or national origin. In that email, VAVP also asks Virginia legislators to discuss expanding hate-crime legislation to include LGBT individuals, and to consider programs that would raise awareness of hate-based violence.

VAVP's recommendations are unlikely to gain much traction in the Virginia General Assembly, controlled by a Republican majority considered generally hostile to LGBT rights.

A search of the Virginia General Assembly website for legislation reveals that no delegate or senator is currently pushing for legislation in the 2013 session that includes adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's hate crime provisions, and similar bills from previous sessions have died in committee.

Meanwhile, in response to the attack, which is being classified by UVA Police as a hate crime, members of the campus community are planning a Dec. 4 rally to present a unified response against bias-related crimes.

Some members of the UVA Queer Student Union told the Charlottesville NBC affiliate WVIR-29 that they are going to continue to try to educate people about hate crimes, and are also planning a self-defense training workshop.

Members of the Queer Student Union also criticized UVA Police for failing to inform the university of the attack for more than 24 hours after it occurred.

According to a press release from the UVA Police Department, the suspect in the attack, who was walking with a group of people, made homophobic slurs toward the victim moments before striking the victim in the face. The victim was later treated for injuries at the student health center.

The suspect is described as a while male with light, dirty blond hair and facial hair, possibly a goatee. He is approximately 5'10'', weighing between 150 and 160 pounds, and was wearing a T-shirt with a UVA logo and a hoodie.

Those with information about the incident are asked to call University Police at 434-924-7166 or Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000. Information can also be provided by email to .