The Monitoring Trans- and Homophobic Violence in Berlin project aims to improve the recording and documentation of trans- and homophobic violence, in order to raise awareness in urban society and empower victims. The first edition of the report, published in December 2020, is the start of continuous update-based reporting with two main focuses:
Firstly, and for the first time, a differentiated approach is adopted for the evaluation of police state-security data on ‘hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity’ for Berlin in the period from 2010 to 2018, and
Secondly, anti-lesbian violence, which is comparatively invisible and only reflected in police statistics to a limited degree, is investigated in depth.
With the help of the Berlin Monitor, both focuses are supplemented by a representative look at trans- and homophobic attitudes and experiences of discrimination as well as by three guest contributions – including on the concept of ‘hate crime’ and the overlap between sexism, misogyny and anti-lesbian violence. A summary of the key findings for both main focuses is provided here first.
Trans- and homophobic violence in police statistics
A particularly high number of cases of trans- and homophobic violence are reported in Berlin.
A particularly high number of cases of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity are reported to the police in Berlin, with more cases recorded here than in the whole of the rest of Germany.
The total number of reports of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity has increased substantially overall since 2018. Violent crimes in the narrower sense of the term have also increased significantly, although the number of incidents is slightly lower.
The high number of reported cases can be explained in part by a particularly pro-active reporting behaviour that is promoted on an on-going basis by community institutions, the police and the public prosecutor’s office. At the same time, however, the substantial increases also highlight a growing pressure to act.
The statistics for hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity document male* injured parties in particular. A substantial proportion of the cases are violent acts with insults the most frequent offence.
The police statistics register gender on a binary basis. For those cases in which the injured parties are specified, in Berlin the vast majority of victims of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity recorded in the statistics are male* (83 % of the injured parties). Approximately one-sixth (16 %) of the injured parties are women*.
Violent crime represents around one-third (35 %) of the reported cases.
Insults are the most common offence, accounting for two-fifths of the cases (44.3 %).
Hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity is directed mainly against people (88.8 %) and only to a smaller extent against property.
Hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity is more broadly anchored in society and is only attributable to a politically organised spectrum to a lesser extent.
Most of the classifiable incidents of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity fall into the ‘politically motivated crime – right-wing’ category. The vast majority of cases (79.9 %) are not assigned to any of the defined categories, however, and they fall into the ‘politically motivated crime – not to be assigned’ category.
Trans- and homophobic violence is not for the most part a theme that is exclusive to ‘political extremism’ but is more broadly anchored in society. ‘Extremist crime’ accounts for only a small proportion of the cases of trans- and homophobic hate crime (11 %).
In 17 % of all reported cases of trans- und homophobic violence, other dimensions of politically motivated crime, particularly further sub-themes of hate crime, such as xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, were also documented.
The geographical focus is on Mitte, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
The three districts of Mitte, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg account for two-thirds of all incidents (63 %). In Berlin as a whole, the burden is heaviest in Neukölln and Mitte.
The area of Neukölln in particular but also Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg account for high shares of actual and grievous bodily harm.
The predominant share of all reported assaults (67.3 %) occur in public and semi-public space.
Trans- and homophobic offences documented by the police are often related to going-out behaviour.
Almost one-half (47.6 %) of all incidents in Berlin take place in the early-evening and night-time hours, between 4pm and midnight.
Trans- and homophobic offences are particularly weekend offences: 40% of them take place on Saturdays and Sundays.
The burden of trans- and homophobic crime is particularly heavy in the summer months of June, July and August with more than 10 % of the cases occurring in each of these months.
The suspects are predominantly male and often already known to the police. Their nationalities correspond largely with Berlin’s population structure.
Trans- and homophobic offences in Berlin are often committed by individual suspects (56 %).
The share of male suspects between 2010 und 2018 is 91.5 %.
Trans- and homophobic incidents can be traced back to suspects of all age groups, although the majority of suspects are young: 17.2 % are under 20 years of age; almost one-third (30.7 %) are between 20 and 30 years of age; and 20.7 % are between 30 and 40 years of age.
No anomalies are to be found with regard to the suspects’ origins and nationalities. German nationals and people with non-German nationalities appear as suspects approximately in accordance with their respective share of Berlin’s residential population.
A conspicuously high number of suspects in cases of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity are previous offenders already known to the police. Only one-quarter of the suspects are first offenders.
The injured parties in police-documented trans- and homophobic violence are mostly out alone, don’t know the perpetrator and are young.
The vast majority of the victims of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity were selected ‘randomly’; there was no prior acquaintance with the perpetrator (68.2 %).
Almost three-quarters of the assaults (70 %) in Berlin are directed against an individual person.
Proportionately more men* fall victim to violent crimes than women* (42 % and 36 % respectively).
Younger age groups are more frequently recorded as victims of hate crime against sexual orientation and/or sexual identity; 30 % of the injured parties are between 20 and 30 years of age, one-quarter (24 %) between 30 and 40 years of age.
The percentages for female* injured parties are significantly higher in younger age groups.
Mitte, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln are the districts and areas with particularly high numbers of victims.
Violent crimes are resolved less often than non-violent crimes.
The clearance rate for violent crimes (38.2 %) is significantly lower than that for non-violent crimes (48.1 %).
Trans- and homophobic attitudes and experiences of discrimination in Berlin
Experiences of discrimination due to sexual orientation and/or sexual identity are very prevalent.
There are fewer accounts of these kinds of discrimination experiences among older people – particularly high percentages are to be found in the age group up to 30 years of age.
Many Berliners* express liberal, pro-plurality attitudes and a clear majority supports measures against the discrimination of LGBTIQ* people. Trans- and homophobic prejudices are met with open approval in smaller sections of the population, however.
Agreement with trans- and homophobic prejudices tends to be more widespread in the older population. The higher the level of formal education, the less agreement with trans- and homophobic prejudices is expressed.
Trans- and homophobic attitudes are slightly more widespread among people with a ‘migration background’ or without German nationality, but the majority of these people also agree with measures against the discrimination of LGBTIQ* people.
The focus on anti-lesbian violence: understanding anti-lesbian violence
Lesbians tend to be invisible in statistics on homophobia.
Studies on anti-lesbian violence show that the low representation of lesbian/queer women* is not attributable to a lower subjection to violence.
Research to date also shows that women* tend to accept homophobic insults more than men*, since they have become used to sexualised devaluation and insults, often since a young age, as a result of everyday sexism.
Anti-lesbian violence is an urgent topic for lesbian/queer women*.
Anti-lesbian violence is an urgent topic for those who have been subjected to it, since every lesbian/queer woman* can expect to become a victim of anti-lesbian violence.
Personal experiences of anti-lesbian violence are regularly not referred to as such.
Berlin is experienced as a ‘safe haven’. At the same time, the sense of security felt among lesbian/queer women* in Berlin has reduced in recent years.
Violence occurs mostly in public space but assaults in a person’s personal surroundings are often felt to be more stressful.
Verbal violence (abuse, insults, etc.) is described as being the most common form of violence.
Incidents of violence in public space occur mostly as either ‘passing violence’ that arises from random encounters or as violence within the context of heterosexist advances.
Violence in a person’s personal surroundings is described as being less frequent than violence in public space but it is often felt by the victims to be more stressful, since there are often on-going processes that also involve continued contact with the perpetrators.
Anti-lesbian violence is described as being present within LGBTIQ* communities, too. These incidents are also described as being particularly stressful, since they occur in spaces that are (meant to be) refuges and safe havens.
Overlaps with other forms of discrimination are a major factor.
There is almost always an overlap of homophobia and (hetero-)sexism in anti-lesbian violence.
Other common overlaps within the context of anti-lesbian violence are hostility towards trans* and disabled people, and racism.
Many lesbian/queer women* take precautionary measures. In experiencing violent situations, the behaviour of bystanders is an important factor.
Many lesbian/queer women* take precautionary measures and take on society’s responsibility for violence prevention themselves.
Victims have personal ‘city safety maps’ that depict where they feel particularly safe or unsafe. These maps are very different depending on the person; general conclusions with regard to particular districts or areas of the city cannot be drawn from them.
Compared with earlier studies, a change in the way violence is dealt with can be found: as before, it is rarely reported but it is much discussed in private.
The non-intervention of bystanders is often described as being particularly upsetting; by contrast, situations where passers-by have intervened are described as being ‘empowering’ and supportive.
Most survey respondents would like to see a stronger social commitment to their specific problem area, for example solidarity and civil-courage campaigns.
The focus on anti-lesbian violence: findings from the standardised survey
Who was surveyed?
Of the 188 participants*, most of them describe themselves as female (87 %) or diverse (14 %), and lesbian (58 %) or queer (35 %). Most of the respondents are between 25 and 35 years of age (with respondents also aged from 18 to over 60), have a university degree, and 28 % are often visible as lesbian/queer, based on their own assessment.
The majority of respondents have experienced anti-lesbian violence in the past five years. The overlap with sexism is a major factor in these incidents.
The majority of respondents feel mostly safe in Berlin but at the same time they are (mostly) very concerned about the possibility of anti-lesbian assaults.
57 % of the respondents have experienced anti-lesbian violence in the past five years, 35 % even in the past year. The anti-lesbian motivation behind the incidents was usually apparent – e.g. due to insults and abusive language (70 %).
Assaults originated mostly from individual people (63 %). Only in a small percentage of cases was the perpetrator already known personally to the victim (13 %).
There seems to be a considerable overlap between sexism and anti-lesbian violence; the victims almost always see a sexist component in assaults. The rate for falling victim to sexism (94 %) is still higher than that for homophobia.
The vast majority of respondents take precautionary measures, but assaults are only rarely reported to the police.
Around three-quarters of the participants take precautionary measures in public. Respondents who say of themselves that they are often perceived as lesbian/queer take precautionary measures even more often (more than 90 %).
The ‘dark figure’ of anti-lesbian violence that goes unreported seems to be exceptionally high. From 97 accounts of assaults, three were reported to the police.
Accounts of anti-lesbian/anti-queer assaults rarely leave the scene. The possibilities for reporting incidents to police or notifying other agencies online are barely known (16 %). Nevertheless, one-half of the respondents (50 %) know about advice centres and about the liaison officers at Berlin Police.
Many respondents don’t report incidents to the police because they don’t think the police will or can take action.
Bystanders are often present but they rarely intervene.
Assaults often happen in the presence of bystanders. According to the respondents, there are observers* in most cases (67 %). In the vast majority (75 %) of those cases where bystanders were present at the scene, they either didn’t intervene or didn’t get help.
The (non-)behaviour of witnesses* and bystanders also extends to serious assaults, e.g. physical violence.