New York City resident and Chicago-native Omar Villalobos was taking a stroll in Manhattan with a friend when he said he heard a man shout a gay slur.
“Before I could even look up, he struck me right in the forehead, splitting about two-and-a-half inches of a cut above my right eyebrow,” Villalobos told NBC OUT. "I put my hand over my right eyebrow, and blood just comes down into my hand."
Upset and injured, Villalobos said he sought assistance from nearby police officers but didn't receive the response he expected. When he reported what had happened, he said one of the officers said, "Go find someone who cares. We're here for terrorist attacks, not homeless people."
When asked for a comment, an NYPD spokesperson told NBC OUT via email, "On Saturday August 20th at 1655 hours the victim was at 42 Street when an unknown male 40-50 made anti-gay statements and then punched the victim in the eye. He received 6 stitches to his eye. Hate Crime Task Force is investigating and IAB is looking into the incident."
"We're still in a country where people are seeing violence based on sexuality and gender identity," Shelby Chestnut, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the Anti-Violence Project, told NBC OUT. She added "street-based" violence against the LGBTQ community is still a "fairly common occurrence."
The Anti-Violence Project has found there is underreporting of anti-LGBTQ violence in New York, and Chestnut said feeling unsafe about going to police is one reason for this. Survivors of this type of violence often go to LGBTQ organizations to seek out assistance and resources.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which is affiliated with the Anti-Violence Project, found instances of negative responses from police -- which can range from indifference to physical violence -- had decreased nationally from 54 percent of those surveyed in 2014 to 41 percent in 2015.
"[The police] need to focus on training but also creating a sense that they need to take complaints seriously regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation," Chestnut told NBC OUT.