A woman in the San Francisco Bay area was jumped by four men, taunted for being a lesbian, repeatedly raped and left naked outside an abandoned apartment building, authorities said Monday.
Detectives say the 28-year-old victim was attacked Dec. 13 after she got out of her car, which bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The men, who ranged from their late teens to their 30s, made comments indicating they knew her sexual orientation, said Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan.
"It just pushes it beyond fathomable," he said. "The level of trauma — physical and emotional — this victim has suffered is extreme."
Authorities are characterizing the attack as a hate crime but declined to reveal why they think the woman was singled out because of her sexual orientation. Gagan would say only that the victim lived openly with a female partner and had a rainbow flag sticker on her car.
Raped several times
The 45-minute attack began when one of the men approached the woman as she crossed the street, struck her with a blunt object, ordered her to disrobe and sexually assaulted her on the spot with the help of the other men.
When the group saw another person approaching, they forced the victim back into her car and took her to a burned-out apartment building, where she was raped again inside and outside the vehicle. The assailants took her wallet and drove off in her car. Officers found the car abandoned two days later.
The woman sought help from a nearby resident, and she was examined at a hospital. Although the victim said she did not know her attackers, detectives hope someone in the community knows them. One of the men went by the nickname "Blue" and another was called "Pato," according to authorities.
Richmond police are offering a $10,000 award for information leading to the arrest of the attackers.
Hate crimes against gays increasing
Gay rights advocates note that hate crimes based on sexual orientation have increased nationwide as of late. There were 1,415 such crimes in 2006 and 1,460 in 2007, both times making up about 16 percent of the total, according to the FBI.
Avy Skolnik, a coordinator with the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, noted that gay, lesbian and transgender crime victims may be more reluctant than heterosexual victims to contact police.
"Assailants target LGBT people of all gender identities with sexual assault," he said. "Such targeting is one of the most cruel, dehumanizing and violent forms of hate violence that our communities experience."
Skolnik said the group plans to analyze hate crime data to see whether fluctuations may be related to the gay marriage bans that appeared on ballots this year in California, Arizona and Florida.
"Anytime there is an anti-LGBT initiative, we tend to see spikes both in the numbers and the severity of attacks," he said. "People feel this extra entitlement to act out their prejudice."