(Crystal A. Proxmire, 11/4/2011)
A 44 year old Ferndale man was severely beaten and robbed in his home after bringing a stranger home from the bar earlier this week. According to police, 38 year old Alesandro Signorelli met the victim on Oct 29 at Adam’s Apple, a gay bar in Detroit. They spent the night together, and Signorelli returned the following night. The next morning when the victim tried to go to work, Signorelli attacked the man, punching him repeatedly in the face and attempting to suffocate him with a shower curtain.
Signorelli also threatened the victim with a knife from the kitchen, and forced him to gather items from the house to steal, including prescription drugs and a television. At approximately 7:45am, when the victim saw an opportunity, he ran from the home to a neighbor’s, who called the police.
The attacker fled and was captured by Detroit Police two days later after they recognized his wanted red pickup truck. Signorelli was recently released from prison and was on parole at the time of the attack.
Equality Michigan, an organization that provides support and advocacy to the LGBT community, is working with the victim in this case. The organization also tracks crime statistics in the community. Nusrat Ventimiglia, Director of Victim Services at Equality Michigan, says dating-related assault is one of the issues her group is working to bring attention to.
From October 2010 to September 2011, Equality Michigan has seen eight cases of sexual assault, served nine survivors of victims of homicide, three survivors of robbery, 14 survivors of violent crimes and 167 survivors of hate crimes. Because of issues in reporting, it’s likely that these numbers are low. “I can tell you that perpetrators have selected victims based on a belief that they are less likely to report the incident to police, whether because of the lower reporting rates due to the historically poor police response and attitude, or due to the fact that an individual may not be out or identify as a lesbian, gay or transgender and is therefore less likely to come forward after being victimized as a result of a pick-up crime,” Ventimiglia said. She added that Ferndale is different than many communities where victims may seek police help. “The Ferndale Police has been excellent partners and committed to protecting all Ferndale residents, with great responsiveness and sensitivity to the particular needs of the LGBT community.”
Equality Michigan has issued a series of safety guidelines in response to the recent attack:
– Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.
– Think about an escape route in advance, in case of danger.
– Look for well lit, open and secure areas in which to meet.
– If you get bad vibes, feel uneasy or get butterflies, your gut instinct is telling you something is wrong … don’t go with them!
– Never show that you feel intimidated, frightened or “out of control.”
– Never let the pick-up know you are alone. Let them think that you have a friend that knows where you are.
– If you are alone, carry a phone.
– At any sign of trouble:
Make as much noise as possible.
Run and scream “Fire!” as loud as you can.
Carry a whistle or personal alarm.
– If forced to fight, use whatever you can as a weapon – your stilettos, bag, sharp ring, belt buckle or anything that will inflict pain.
-Create as much noise as possible.
-Be cautious about revealing information that could identify you. For example, if you give someone your listed phone number, they can get your real name and street address.
-For your first meeting, pick a place that’s public and neutral. If you’re traveling to visit them in their town or neighborhood, you should pick a place you’re comfortable with when you arrive.
-Always carry a cell phone. This will allow you to call 911 at any time. If finances are tight, purchase a pre-paid cell phone.
-Know that, no matter what, violence is never your fault.
Ferndale Police Lt. William Wilson has a much simpler solution for how to avoid being a victim of an attack such as this which is “not bring somebody home from the bar.”
Another tool is the State of Michigan Department of Corrections website which allows you to search for current and former prisoners, letting people know if the person they are bringing home has a past. The Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) found on this site contains information about more than 300,000 prisoners, parolees and probationers.
Simply getting to know someone and checking them out on Facebook or other social networking sites can also help weed out those who may not be a good match, such as violent felons.
To learn more about how to protect yourself against violence, or to report a bias incident or hate crime, call the Department of Victim Services at Equality Michigan at 1-866-962-1147 or provide a narrative account of the situation at email@example.com.