Like many in our community, AVP shares in the concern for our safety in light of recent reporting around the suspicious deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger, and the possible drugging and robbery of other LGBTQ bar patrons in New York City. According to reports, Ramirez and Umberger were found dead after possibly being drugged while visiting bars. According to reports, thousands of dollars were also taken from their accounts.
Supporting our communities in the face of harm is why we are here today.
We lift the names of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger and celebrate their lives cut too short. We mourn them along with their families and loved ones, both related and chosen, and ask our fellow community members to continue to do what we always do – look out for one another, make plans for your safety, and report any violence to AVP for support. The upcoming holidays can also be a time of increased risk to our community for many reasons, especially for those traveling to less-welcoming locations.
In the coming weeks, AVP will release more information about how you can get involved in efforts to keep nightlife spaces safe for our communities. For now, we ask that you not only follow these safety tips, but be extra diligent when out, especially at night. At clubs and bars, keep your phone charged and on you, don’t leave your drink unattended, and communicate with a friend if you move to a new venue.
We also know that we can do everything in our power to protect ourselves and that harm can still occur. So please take extra care to look out for yourself and each other but know that survivors are not to blame for the harm done to them.
AVP is committed to working with our communities to help anyone who has experienced violence. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for help at any time by calling 212-714-1141 or by completing a report. Read the safety tips below that we’ve curated to help you and your loved ones stay safe while out.
STAYING SAFE FROM DATING/HOOKUP VIOLENCE
Make a safety plan and let someone else know. (We can help!) Tell at least one person about your plans, including who you’ll be with, a way to get in touch with the person/people you are meeting, the meeting place, how long you’re planning to be out, and what you plan to do. Tell a friend if you are planning to use drugs or alcohol and what you plan to use. Plan what will happen if you feel unsafe or do not respond to your friend after an agreed-on amount of time. Let your friend know whether you want the police called.
Use your tech. Text your friends about where you’ll be, where you are, and when you plan to go home. If you’re meeting an online date, share a screenshot of their profile and the handle or screenname (@username if available) they use on the website or app. Enable location sharing with a few trusted people, but also text information about where you are, especially if you change locations. Check-in with your safety person about what to do if your location sharing gets disabled; that may be a sign of problems.
Enable a passcode on your phone. To make sure that you’re the only person who can access sensitive information and contacts on your phone, use a passcode that you have to type in, not facial or fingerprint recognition.
Meet in public. Meeting in public allows for more excellent options for safety if you are connecting with someone you met online. If possible, bring friends with you, as they can watch your back and give you their impressions. If the person doesn’t look like the picture, ask them about it. If they don’t have an answer you feel comfortable with, leave.
Meeting new people at the club. If you’re going out in hopes of meeting someone new, go with friends and make an agreement with them about how you’ll check in if one of you meets someone. Share information with friends about where you’re going and when you’ll check in again.
Know your limits. If you’re going to use substances, including alcohol, consider deciding when and how much you will use.
Practice safer sex. If you think you may have sex, make it safer sex—bring safer sex supplies and use them. AVP has free safer sex supplies (internal and external condoms, lube, dental dams, etc.) available and can help you safety plan around how to ask your sex partner to engage in safer sex.
Incidents of hook-up violence can happen in public spaces such as bars, sex/play parties, etc. Let friends, other patrons, or bar/nightclub staff know if you leave temporarily and when you intend to return. When you are outside, scan the street for establishments (such as a bodega or car service) where you can go to seek help if you feel unsafe. Don’t leave any drinks or your belongings unattended. Discuss your interests and boundaries for sex, including BDSM, before engaging.
Trust your instincts. If you feel threatened or unsafe at any point, if at all possible, exit the situation.
You can say no. No matter who initiates or how far you’ve gone, you can stop anytime for any reason.
GETTING SUPPORT IF VIOLENCE OCCURS
It’s not your fault. Nobody has the right to violate your boundaries or commit violence against you, no matter where it happens or how you met.
Document the incident. Take photos of any injuries; keep records of emails, texts, and calls.
Consider medical attention or counseling after an incident. Violence can have many physical and emotional impacts. AVP has free and confidential counseling and support group sessions available.
Call us. We’re here to support LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of all forms of violence, including hook-up, dating, sexual, intimate partner, hate, and police violence. If you have witnessed or experienced violence, we encourage you to call our 24-hour bilingual (English/Spanish) hotline at 212-714-1141, where you can speak with a trained counselor or use our secure online reporting form.
Take care of yourself. Utilize the help of supportive friends, partners and family.
Get involved. To help keep our communities safe, get involved with our community organizing work. Help develop our programs and projects to bring safety to all communities.
We hope that everyone can celebrate this holiday season and beyond safely, and we will keep monitoring and report any new information available. Reach out to us at anytime if you need help with safety planning or support.