June 12th, 2016
Orlando Florida Nightclub Shootings
Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Traumatic Aftermath
The worst mass shooting in American history brings with it a very complex dynamic, which is the intersecting of Criminal Radicalization and Hate Crimes against one of the most vulnerable groups in North America. Early indicators are that the perpetrator heeded the call of international terrorists to target “gay nightclubs” on North American soil. The “call” for someone who is not fully committed to engage in serious violence and attack a random nightclub would be difficult. But with the current divisiveness in the United States around Gay Marriage and other LGBTQ related topics, the “call” to target Sexual and Gender Minorities is far more “justifiable” in the minds of both radicalized and hateful individuals and groups. Although the Canadian climate is generally better than that of our American counterparts on issues of promoting acceptance, there are plenty of recent hate crimes involving violence against sexual and gender minorities in our own Country as well.
*NOTE: This ALERT is done in collaboration with our colleague Dr. André P. Grace, Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Studies at the University of Alberta.
Part One Violence Threat Risk Assessment
- We are currently in the first Critical Period that will take us to the end of the academic year. This period is more complex as professionals, children and youth alike are all tired as the school year winds down.
- As this is clearly targeted towards sexual and gender minorities, we must be very attentive to both these vulnerable youth and those you know have targeted them in the past.
- Of equal concern is these youth now have the most tangible evidence of how hated they really are by some in our communities. Therefore our efforts to be connected to them during this period are paramount. (It would be appropriate to formally identify healthy staff that has a connection with LGBTQ youth and have them directly ask those youth how they are doing in the aftermath of the Florida Shootings).
- Also show caring concern for staff and parents who are sexual and gender minorities.
- This tragedy will increase the justification process for bullying, mean behavior and acts of violence.
- In recent traumatic events across North America we have seen a significant increase in the use of anonymous based social media platforms to spread and incite hatred. Depending on your region, a variety of anonymous apps may be popular including: Ask.fm, Yik Yak, Whisper, and Ogle. Given the inherent lack of accountability with anonymous platforms, we need to remain vigilant in monitoring these platforms for any escalation of targeted hatred.
- Several posts through social networking by ‘so called’ Christians in the United States have supported the Orlando attack calling it an “act of God” which will also increase the risk for suicidality amongst gender and sexual minorities.
Part Two Impact on Sexual and Gender Minorities
Sexual and gender minorities compose a demographically complex population, which WorldPride 2014 organizers in Toronto described using the LGBTTIQQ2SA acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, questioning, queer, two-spirited and allies. While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects this diverse group against discrimination on the grounds of sexual and gender differences, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia persist. By virtues of their ages and ongoing development, sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth are particularly vulnerable in our schools and communities. They continue to experience adversity and trauma caused by an array of stressors that can affect their physical and mental health and make them prone to risk taking and various negative life outcomes including substance abuse and suicide ideation, attempts, and completions. An event like the terrorist attack on the LGBTQ community in Orlando can be a real trigger for SGM youth who may be fearful and even traumatized in the aftermath of such horror. Moreover, it can lead to targeting of SGM youth, which Anthony D’Augelli, an expert on victimization and mental health among high-risk youth, calls retaliatory dangers. Thus the attack can be a trigger for bullies and other aggressive youth and adults who would target vulnerable SGM youth.
In the aftermath of the heinous crime in Orlando, Principals, teachers, guidance counselors, and other caring professionals need to ensure the health, wellbeing, safety, and security of SGM students in our schools and communities. Here are some key considerations:
- It is important to monitor the behavior and treatment of SGM youth, especially those who are out and visible, since they can be particularly vulnerable and subjected to symbolic violence (such as name-calling and graffiti on lockers and in washrooms) as well as physical violence (such as bullying behaviors that may include physical assaults).
- In recent years Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Clubs have become more common in Canadian schools. SGM youth view them as safe spaces where they can socialize and talk about issues important to them. It is important to be vigilant about safety and security around GSA meetings, since they can be a targeted site for inflicting hurt on congregated SGM youth and their allies. Principals and teacher facilitators of these clubs have a particular responsibility to take care here.
- It is also important to talk to youth about websites and social media that tend to accelerate homo/bi/transphobic narratives and targeting of sexual and gender minorities in the aftermath of events like the Orlando massacre. Angry, disenfranchised youth can be particularly influenced when they are exposed to negative messaging and calls to engage in imitative (copycat) activities.
Part Three Resources
Educators need to build knowledge and understanding of sexual and gender minority youth and those who would perpetrate violence against them in schools and communities. To assist you in educational and outreach initiatives, explore and use the following resources:
- Advice for educators and an array of other resources focused on supporting sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth and addressing their comprehensive health issues, can be found at http://chewproject.ca/resources/.
- In September 2015, the University of Toronto Press released André P. Grace’s new book entitled Growing into Resilience: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada. Part II is co-authored with Kristopher Wells. The book argues that, despite recent progress in civil rights for sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ) in Canada, ensuring SGM youth experience fairness, justice, inclusion, safety, and security at school remains an ongoing challenge. It investigates how teachers, healthcare workers, and other professionals can help SGM youth build the human and material assets that will empower them to be happy, healthy, hopeful, and resilient. The book draws upon the personal narratives of SGM youth, emphasizing ways to link research, policy, and practice so youth can thrive. As a resource for those professionally engaged in work with SGM youth as a diverse sub-population of youth, Growing into Resilience is a timely and useful book. It includes a typology focused on stressors, risk taking, asset building, and indicators of thriving. For more details, visit http://www.ismss.ualberta.ca/AndreGrace and click on the order form.
- On May 17, 2016, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) released Grace and Wells’ new Canadian resource, which is published in English and French. The resource is entitled Sexual and Gender Minorities in Canadian Education and Society (1969-2013): A National Handbook for K-12 Educators. This detailed resource examines what has been done in Canada to improve the situation of sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ persons) in Canadian society and, more specifically, in education since the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969. In it, educators will find a wealth of ideas, resources, and practices to help them deal with this important equity issue. For more information, visit http://www.ismss.ualberta.ca/AndreGrace and click on the order form.
As noted by President Barack Obama, there were more mass shootings in the United States last year then there are days in the Calendar: meaning on average over one per day in 2015! Canada is not immune to this contemporary phenomenon. In the field of Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) we distinguish between “Traditional” versus “Non-Traditional” Offenders and most of the high profile crimes are being committed by the non-traditionals (those with no history of violence until they commit the crime). We have also never seen a time in which serious violence and the justification for it has become so widespread and commonplace. Therefore, as has always been a theme in these ALERTS, increase your connections with those you are most concerned about. This includes potential violent offenders and potential victims, as we want them to know they can come to us for help.
There is a special obligation for faith-based school staff and other professionals to prioritize the obligation to “love thy neighbour as thyself”over religious beliefs that put sexual and gender minorities in a negative light. At the end of the day, all educators and other professionals are required by their codes of professional conduct to be ethical and caring. This means we all need to be there for every student across differences including sexual orientation and gender variation.
Kevin Cameron, M.Sc., R.S.W., B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.C.R.
Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress
Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response
Theresa Campbell, M.A.
President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.
André P. Grace, Ph.D.
Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Studies (Tier 1)
Professor, Department of Educational Psychology
Director of Research, iSMSS
University of Alberta
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