Hate Crimes: Facebook Support for Victim Jake Raynard and Judy Shepard Fights On
Jake Raynard was the victim of a brutal attack over Labor Day weekend in his hometown of Thunder Bay, in Canada’s Ontario province. Raynard is recovering in a hospital after being beaten with a brick by a group of men. His sister, Jackii Raynard, has no doubt that "what happened that night was a hate crime. They broke the whole left side of his face. His face speaks for itself."
Raynard and two friends were confronted by an aggressive man early Saturday morning outside a bar. When they tried to walk away, Raynard and his friends were followed by a group of men shouting derogatory comments about gays.
When the attackers began to strike and choke Raynard and his friends, Raynard fought back as more attackers seemed to come out of the woodwork. "I managed to fend off six to eight people by yelling long enough to get them [his two friends] into a cab," Raynard, who is gay, recalled from his hospital bed.
As police in Ontario work on identifying the persons of interest for the investigation, Raynard's friends have created a group to support his recovery. The Unified Community Around Jake Raynard group on Facebook was founded with two main goals: "to support Jake, make him feel safe and welcome in his hometown, and act on his behalf as he desires" and "to stand together after this attack on our community and make public statements against hate crime, and to assert that WE define this community NOT the attackers."
The concerned riends and supporters have also established a fund to benefit Raynard. "This fund will be dedicated to permit Jake access to legal consultation, rehabilitation treatments, and some basic income while unable to work," according to the post.
The group has already surpassed 3,000 members in a few short days. Raynard’s friends believe "it is our response that defines us, not this crime."
In the wake of another example of these horrific crimes, the battle over hate-crimes legislation continues in the U.S. Congress. One of the most recognizable and sympathetic leaders of the movement, Judy Shepard, is hopeful that the Matthew Shepard Act, named in memory of her son who was murdered in a hate crime, will finally pass after a decade of lobbying for it. Should it ultimately be rejected, as it has been several times before, Shepard tirelessly promises,"I'll just start over."
Judy Shepard has written a book, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, about her path toward gay rights campaigning. In addition, a new play, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later (An Epilogue) will be performed in over a hundred theaters in all 50 states and seven foreign countries. This sequel to The Laramie Project reflects new interviews with Laramie, Wyo., residents and Aaron McKinney, one of the men convicted of Matthew Shepard's murder. The new play debuts October 12, the 11th anniversary of Shepard’s death.
Judy Shepard remembers her son as "so much more than 'Matthew Shepard, the gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming college student.'" She writes in the book, "He had a family and countless friends. He had a life before the night he was tied to that fence."
Judy Shepard says what she now refers to as her "first life" came to an end on that night, in that spot, as well. And her second life has been devoted to enhancing the "ripple effect" of rallying true believers in the fight to protect people from hate crimes and prosecute those who commit them.
"We all knew we couldn't do nothing" after that night, she says. "We owed it to Matt to do something."
Tell us: Have you ever known a victim of hate crime or been one yourself? What can be done to defend, aid, and rehabilitate victims after a crime?
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