LGBTQ advocacy group brings anti-violence program to Appleton

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Violence among, and within, the LGBTQ community is on the rise. A Wisconsin anti-violence group surveyed more than 900 LGBTQ people and found nearly 80 percent reported experiencing one or more kinds of violence.

"I myself am a survivor of intimate partner violence in an LGBTQ relationship,” said Nick Ross.

Ross says at the time it was hard to know where to turn.

"I didn't really even consider that mainstream resources would be available to me,” said Ross.

But now he will work for a program designed to be that resource for the LGBTQ community.

"It is celebratory that we're here, but the work is very serious,” said Kathy Flores during a news conference Friday. “We want to prevent any more deaths from happening, any more homicides."

Flores, through the advocate group Diverse and Resilient, started the Room to Be Safe anti-violence program to assist LGBTQ survivors. The program is funded through a Department of Justice grant.

Room to Be Safe, housed in Appleton, will provide support groups, counseling, safety planning and other services.

"Violence that happens within the LGBTQ community, or to LGBTQ individuals, often doesn't make the news because sometimes survivors don't report the violence that's happening because they might have a lot of shame about it, some survivors may not feel safe coming out,” said Flores.

Flores says it's not just violence against the LGBTQ community that's increasing -- intimate partner violence is, too.

“Trans women, transgender men, gay men often aren’t able to access services, or they may not know about the services that are available, because they are designed predominately for heterosexual women,” said Flores.

But through the Room to be Safe program, they plan to fill that gap.

"The fact that we'll be able to partner with other organizations and get people who are experiencing those things the help that they need is really amazing,” said Ross.

It's an idea city and state representatives, advocates and survivors came out to support Friday.

“For people who think our work is done when it comes to LGBTQ, it’s not,” said Rep. Amanda Stuck (D – Appleton). “So it is really important to have an office, and a presence here [so] that we can continue to do the work that we need to do to make sure everyone can live their best life here.”

Though the work is just beginning, Room to be Safe members are ready to get started.

"We are a resilient people, we are survivors, and I think working with LGBTQ survivors is the biggest honor of my life,” said Flores.

The grand opening for the Room to Be Safe anti-violence program office will be announced soon. Visit Diverse and Resilient's Facebook page for more information. CLICK HERE