Feature

More than a decade has passed since research first showed that gay and lesbian hate crime victims are at an increased risk for suicide, depression and anxiety, yet little is known about the factors that can buffer victims against those negative effects, says Robert J. Cramer, PhD, of Sam Houston State University. Even less is known about how such crimes affect victims' sexual identity, which is often central to their relationships and social support systems.

To fill those research holes, Cramer is using a $15,000 Wayne F. Placek grant from the American Psychological Foundation to survey 400 lesbian, gay and bisexual patients at Legacy Community Health Services in Houston about their hate crime victimization experiences, coping strategies, relationships and religious beliefs, among other factors. Legacy is a federally qualified health center that offers medical and behavioral health services to an area of Houston with a large sexual minority population.

"It's an opportunity to take a really good look at that micro-community," says Cramer, who is conducting the research with colleague Rowland Miller, PhD, doctoral student Caroline Stroud and Jim Graham, Legacy's research administrator.

Once the researchers analyze the data this summer, they will use their findings to help Legacy staff tailor community outreach programs and psychotherapeutic interventions and assessments for victims.

This year's second Placek winner, Marieka M. Klawitter, PhD, is using her $15,000 grant to determine the factors that prompt state and local governments to adopt laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian employees. To date, only 45 percent of state and local governments have such antidiscrimination policies, says Klawitter, a University of Washington economist.

She and doctoral student Danielle Fumia are using U.S. census and other publically available data to investigate whether, for example, high concentrations of gay and lesbian couples, the presence of religious institutions or public support predict when governments implement antidiscrimination laws.

They are also looking at whether there's a "snowball" effect, in which the passage of laws on local levels spur the passage of statewide laws or laws in nearby states. So far, says Klawitter, the pattern that is emerging is very similar to how race and gender discrimination laws unfolded.

"There was a building up across states and then federal legislation was adopted," she says. "It may be that that's what will happen for sexual orientation as well."


Read more about the Wayne F. Placek Grants and how to apply.