Recent violence increases focus on protecting San Francisco transgender community 

click to enlarge Theresa Sparks, the executive director of the Human Rights Commission, spoke at a recent City Hall meeting on the subject of violence against transgender people. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Theresa Sparks, the executive director of the Human Rights Commission, spoke at a recent City Hall meeting on the subject of violence against transgender people.

Attacks against transgender people in the Mission district have government officials mobilizing to prevent further violence as the recent crimes evoke past tragedies and call into question The City’s commitment to protect such individuals.

Theresa Sparks, who is transgender and the executive director of the Human Rights Commission, said progress has been slow. At a hearing Thursday at City Hall, she talked about a meeting she had six years ago with the mother of
27-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant Ruby Rodriguez, a transgender woman who was brutally killed.

“Her mother sat down and said, ‘Why is my daughter seen by this city and this country as a throwaway soul?’ And I couldn’t answer that because all the actions of The City that were happening at that time, this population was seen as a throwaway,” Sparks said Thursday during a public hearing. “And maybe I am being a little harsh, but history seems to be repeating itself.”
Six months prior to Rodriguez’s killing, two other transgender women had also been slain.

Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission, called for Thursday’s hearing because he wants to ensure The City has a violence-prevention plan in place in the wake of the three recent attacks on transgender people in the area of 16th and Mission streets. There were reported assaults Feb. 26 and March 30 and a robbery April 8. Police have arrested suspects in two of the cases, said Mission Police Station Capt. Robert Moser.

Since 2010, the District Attorney’s Office has reviewed 11 transgender hate crime cases and brought charges in nine of them while two were dropped because the victim could not be found, said Rebecca Prozan, the office’s director of community relations. Of the nine, there were six convictions.

It’s widely thought that crimes against transgender people are underreported. Challenges in protecting the transgender community in the Mission include immigration status, lack of English proficiency and distrust of authorities, city officials said.

Campos expressed disappointment with the community outreach of the Police Department’s hate crimes unit, calling that a “big part of the problem.”

“There is no trust from this particular population and this Police Department right now, and we need to change that,” Campos said.

Campos said he would like to beef up the hate crimes unit, expand the Human Rights Commission’s focus on hate crimes, and implement violence-prevention services tailored toward transgender people.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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Monday, Oct 20, 2014

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