Findings in the first monitoring report (2020)

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
Trans- and homophobic attitudes and experiences of discrimination in Berlin
The focus on anti-lesbian violence: understanding anti-lesbian violence
The focus on anti-lesbian violence: findings from the standardised survey

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.