A video appearing to show four Russian men brutally beating a transgender woman is spreading on Russian social networks. It's the latest known case in a string of so-called vigilante attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia.
The three-minute clip
, posted to a group page on VKontakte, a popular Russian social network, begins with a man using a vulgarity to describe the violence he intends to inflict on the victim. He and three other men then punch and kick her multiple times, before stripping her pants off and attempting to force her to sit on a glass bottle. After the victim breaks the bottle on the ground and runs away, the men chase after her and the video stops.
Human rights advocates claim that a recent law banning the "promotion of nontraditional sexual relations" has created an environment that tacitly accepts hatred and even violence against LGBT Russians. Groups calling themselves Occupy Pedophilia and Occupy Gerontophilia have encouraged attacks on gay teens
, claiming that their efforts will "reform" them.
It is still not clear who perpetrated the assault in the most recent video, but it was first posted August 12 on the "Only Street Fighting" VKontakte page, which has more than 530,000 members.
The video has spread to sites favoring LGBT rights, but comments under the original posting are overwhelmingly supportive of the attackers.
The language in many comments is too graphic to post.
, a VKontakte user from Samara, calls for the destruction of "these monsters," adding: "For now let them do what they want behind closed doors, but when they go out onto the street like this, it is necessary to drive them away. I wouldn't want my child, walking on the street, to see such (offensive term for gay men)."
Some messages express a desire to see the victim beaten further.
"Haha, it's too bad he ran away," writes Irbis Yaguarov
"They should have maimed him," suggests Timurrrchik Savka:
Other posts speculate that the attack may have "normalized" the victim.
"I'm guessing they beat out any wishes of being [gay] from him," writes Andrei Litvinov
"I hope that after this he'll become normal," writes Vladimir Shamukhin
Albert Khannanov speaks
out against the attack, but only because it showed that the attackers themselves might be gay.
"I do not understand why an adult, a healthy man, wears a dress and kisses his own kind -- I believe this is a deviation and something in the head isn't right!" the person writes. "But in the video, everyone can observe that these latent homosexuals are jealous of this man that can voice himself openly."
Three days after the video was posted, a VKontakte user finally steps in to speak out in support of the victim. But after she calls the attackers a "herd of misfits," the group page administrator challenges her.
"Better them than homosexuals," he writes. “There is no use for homosexuals.”
"And what's the use of [the attackers] again?" she asks. "God knows, maybe next time they won't like my sneakers or haircut."
"I understand, I saw your photo," the administrator responds, saying she should indeed change the way she looks -- lest she be mistaken for a gay boy and suffer the consequences.
VKontakte has attempted to shut down sites associated with the Occupy Gerontophilia movement, but violent clips are still readily available on the social network.
At the time of publication, the Only Street Fighting site and the assault video were still accessible.