Bil Browning

New PSAs: Anti-Violence Project Responds

Filed By Bil Browning | September 23, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Anti-Violence Project, bullying is violence, NYC Anti-Violence Project, PSAs

Sharon Stapel, the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, shot me over an e-mail this afternoon about my criticism of their new PSA series "Bullying Is Violence." (video at the link) I gave her a call and invited her to respond in a separate post (so it didn't get buried in the comments).

While I criticized the PSA in my post, I made sure to praise AVP - and this is exactly why. Read Sharon's response and do as she suggests - provide feedback they can use with the campaign. AVP isn't an org that sticks their heads Bullying-Is-Violence.jpgin the sand when someone criticizes their work; instead they dig deeper, ask questions, and use the feedback to improve.

Dear Bil,

First, thanks for bringing attention to the PSA and to the issue of violence and bullying. We appreciate your feedback and the important questions you raise in your response to the PSA.

With the PSA we want to spark a discussion about why people bully - and to make the clear connection that bullying is more than school yard taunting as some dismiss it to be. We know bullying is violence, it comes in many forms and affects people of all ages. We know that people are bullied because of who the bully perceives them to be - whether or not they identify as LGBTQ. We want people to ask themselves if and why they judge people for looking or acting "differently" and we think that this PSA allows us to start that conversation. We think this message is also represented in the rest of the page - where we encourage people to take action, find support and get involved with AVP to end this violence.

We feel very fortunate to have been able to work with Daniel, Ronnie and Claire, who are good friends of AVP. The actors themselves are a mix of LGBTQ people and allies who want to end this violence. We want people who see this PSA - both LGBTQ people and our allies - to see themselves as a part of the solution to bullying and violence.

We are glad that you raised these issues because we want this campaign to be as effective as possible. We can use your feedback, and that of your readers, to increase the effectiveness of our on-the-ground organizing. We would love to hear from your readers what else they want to know about to get involved in ending violence - and we will integrate as much of the feedback in our day-to-day work as we can. We encourage all forms of conversation about this issue and any feedback that you or your readers have for us. They can find out more about us, and join our email list for more information, at Thanks, as always, for supporting AVP's work.


If you've complained before about an LGBT not-for-profit not paying attention, here's your chance to make a difference and be listened to with respect and admiration for your own experiences.

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I love it when LGBT organizations are open to criticism. In my humble opinion, none of us have the answers. If we did, we would have full equality and bullying against LGBTQ people would not exist.

The more we share our ideas and speak with clarity and respect towards one another, the better we are able to fight for what is right - for all of us.

What truly makes me sad is that my request to AVP in NYC have been ignored in the past. I have records of asking for assistance and being ignored. Bill, I recall asking for support from you years ago and have been ignored. I recently mailed Annette Gross and I am waiting for some suggestions. My request to the local PFLAG for support had been ignored. I just can't make sense of it. With AVP, I went through the venting process and never received a response. When I wrote back inquiring why , I never received a response. I am not crying wolf. I questioned myself as to why, far too often. Could it be that we are Gay Seniors? But then again , I had written SAGE several times and never got any reply. I decided years ago to keep records and I have records to back up most of my request.
Our situation/circumstances have escalated recently. There seems to be a conspiracy including the local Police, township workers and township officials. Neighbors seem to have joined forces. On Sept 18, we were maliciously and willfully prevented from leaving our property for more than 50 hours. Our access road to our home was maliciously cordoned off without any notice to seal the shared drive. We felt like we were falsely imprisoned. We believe the Police knew it was going to happen along with other neighbors. Everyone had a good laugh. Our road neighbor family has been stalking/bullying/harassing us with the blessing of the local police for 28 years, yes years. Recently, firearms have been used to harass us. The police have made a joke of it along with township officials. If we would have attempt to leave our property after we discovered it cordoned off, we know we would have been arrested. We called the Pennsylvania Police because the local police make a joke of us calling. The stare Police pushed us back to the local. We have only called with legitimate complaints which they ridicule. We called the local police and were brushed off. Our request for a report, so far, has been ignore.

We have been harassed for 28 years by the same family who are chummy with the police. Recently I even contacted Christine Quinn again, the NYC Council President for support. I believe I was again brushed off. I had been in contact with Christine in 1995 when she was chair of AVP in NYC. She was kind and supportive, tried to help but I dropped the ball. I was later diagnosed with a chronic illness which explained my malaise. That is why I decided to contact her again.

However , I did create a website that chronicles the history. Recently my entries are out of sequence. I created the site as a chronicle of events just incase something happens to us. That there is a first person punch list of events and people that may be connected as history. Since the neighbors aren't getting the response they want for two elder Gay men taking a stand, there seems to be an upping of the ante. Our taking a stand has humiliated these creatures. I am banging my drum with such virtuosity at this time hoping that anyone will listen and helps our feel safe and get accountability. There is major corruption in local government and we are standing up to it.
I have never dreamed, like all victims of Hate, that I would feel so helpless ,hopeless and alone. My pleas for a support always seem to be ignored. Our families have turned their heads years ago. We feel that the target on our backs keep getting bigger. I truly wish that AVP would not have ignored me when looking for support. I would truly like to know why. I need to come up for air.

jk, and anyone who needs to talk to AVP - you can call our 24 hour bilingual (English/Spanish) hotline at 212.714.1141 to speak with a trained counselor. Best, Sharon


My calls to AVP have been ignored, why should I call again.To be made to look foolish again? I have e-mailed your organization. How many times do I need to call ? On 10-6-10, I spoke with a case worker named Ilona (spelling?) . It was 8:30 PM on sunday evening and was told that someone would get back to me and no one ever did. Do I have to plead for support?

So why should I call again?

Jerry Kott

We're getting off-topic here. The point of the thread is to provide feedback on the PSAs. If folks would like to find out more about your situation, they can visit your blog to read more. I'm sure that you feel you're up against the wall since you say strange things like dead wildlife keeps showing up in your rural wooded property or speed bumps installed on your road. I saw on the site that you've been to court several times for various disputes with your neighbor over property lines, outdoor lighting, and the road. I know that it can be tiresome, but I'd suggest calling the hotline as Sharon suggests.

You've written me (and I responded) but I had no way of verifying any of the things you claimed, Annette wrote to PFLAG National to assist you as you requested but they couldn't either. If you called AVP in 2010, but didn't get a response what do you have to lose by trying again when you've been invited to do so by the Executive Director? I will say though that since you say nothing violent has happened, perhaps that's why the Anti-Violence Project was unable to assist you. Try again and see.

Since your issue has been directly addressed and isn't relevant to the point of the post, let's call this sidetrack dead and get back on topic.

I have to say I think most of these orgs are so focused on gay-centric issues like marriage and they ignore less wealthy and politically potent segments of the community. As an example, look at how the NYS legislature passed gay marriage with all of these orgs cheering but not one of them could be bothered to notice that transgender New Yorkers rights were thrown under the bus for the fourth time in the last decade. The problem is that these orgs are funded by the wealthy, for the wealthy, and that's where they focus all their attention.

We saw plenty of celebs, commercials, media attention paid to marriage. Now that the rich folks have what they want it's all disappeared and the poorest and most persecuted are left to fend for themselves.

Again, off topic. This post has nothing to do with marriage or orgs that helped pass marriage equality in NY state. It's about AVP & their new anti-bullying PSAs. Let's stay focused on helping the group reaching out for constructive criticism without sidetracking into an old argument they've got nothing to do with.

I disagree. It's totally relevant. Lack of employment leads to poverty and poverty leads to violence. When workplace rights are protected families are more economically secure and therefore the kids in those families are less likely to face bullying.

Additionally, because these orgs are totally gay-centric that's where these efforts are focused, leaving trans kids additionally exposed to violence and bullying.

The wealthy white gays who fund these orgs are so terrified of being seen as radical that they water down these PSAs, eliminate any hint of trans inclusion, and then apparently convince themselves that the average viewer is going to have a clue enough to read between the lines.

NEWSFLASH: They don't. These PSA are so watered down and neutral that they really don't speak for anyone. They waste the community's valuable resources on media that doesn't help solve the problem and renders invisible those who are most in need of their help and support.


Again, any anti-violence campaign which doesn't directly address how 'non-standard' gender behavior impacts bullying is ignoring a core issue.

1) Don't use actors, use real high school and middle school kids;
2) Use kids who bully to explain their behavior and the results of their behavior.
3) Try to engage schools from kids who have had suicides due to bullying.
4) Don't skirt around difficult language, if someone got called a fag, a dyke queer, or tranny then use that;
5) Don't have ads which involve people saying "why would you pick on me" (because bullies are empathy challenged and, if anything, will find that funny)... better to have people who are bullying encountering the people they're bullying and try to explain why they're bullying. Then show REAL WORLD results of bullying in terms of actual kids who've taken their own lives and have bullies explain why that person killed themselves and what felt like when they heard about it. If you can't go to a difficult place, then PSA is a waste of time.

Don't use quick cutting... it just allows kids to zone out on what you're saying. Use other methods to draw the viewers' attention.

Don't just place the ads on tv... they need to be online and in social media in the very places where the bullying occurs.

Websites like Formspring needs to be CALLED OUT as the specialized tools for bullying they are. The companies which create these environments which allow for easy (and even encouraged) anonymous attacking of others need to be held responsible.

I mostly agree with ginasf 5) point. To say "why do you bully me?", "bullying hurts" will please bullies very much. Of course they bully because bullying hurts! That is their immediate goal. I think the ad could address some of their other goals: they bully because they are stupid cowards who need to impress their silly group (yes, I don't like them!).

This ad disturbs me because it makes people looking like victims pleading: "Please Mr Bully don't bully me any more, don't you see how you hurt me?". That is not empowering and it further humiliates victims of bullying. I would like an ad whose message was: "If you coward bully do it again, one day you may have a surprise", and then showed how bullying can eventually hurt bullies (if some victim strikes back, or if their cowardly bullying attitude doesn't pay well in the real adult world, etc).

Unfortunately, I realize the message I want to see is not a good public relations message. My request to the organization would be to try to do some good public relations ad that empowered victims.

I also like ginasf idea of including bullies in the ad.