In what witnesses are calling a hate crime, masked men broke into the Lincoln, Nebraska home of a lesbian woman, bound and brutalized her and then set the house on fire.
According to NBC 6 Omaha, the horrific home invasion occurred around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. The unnamed 33-year-old victim was in her home on the 1000 block of South 22nd Street in Lincoln when three masked men broke into the house, stripped, bound and assaulted the woman, spray painted homophobic slurs on the walls and started a fire before fleeing.
The victim managed to escape her burning house and knock on a neighbor's door for help.
"My neighbor was standing there and she had no clothes on," the neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC 6. "Her hand had been tied with zip ties and the first thing I saw was blood running down her face." The woman described cuts all over the hysterical victim's torso, arms and face.
"There were things carved on her body that can only be described as hate, that somebody can only be taught and we need to stop teaching it," an unnamed friend of the victim told NBC 6.
The Omaha World-Heraldreports that the assailants used a knife to carve the word "dyke" into their victim's arms and stomach.
Neighbors told NBC 6 that the victim was a "nice person" who would sometimes mow their lawns and help them carry their groceries. She was also described as "friendly" but a bit of a loner.
MSNBC reports that more than 500 people showed up for a candlelight vigil for the victim outside the state Capitol building on Sunday evening. The "Vigil Against Violence," which was organized by the victim's friends, was also attended by Mayor Chris Beutler, who called the attack a "hate crime."
"I pray to God this never happens again," Beth Rigatusso of Heartland Pride, an Omaha-based LGBT advocacy group, told the gathered crowd. Rigatusso said a vigil is also planned for Omaha on Thursday.
"I'm not going back in the closet," Karen Bratton-Cranford, president of local group Star City Pride, shouted. Addressing the victim's still at-large attackers, she emphatically declared: "You're not going to scare me back!"
The outpouring of sympathy from the community continues. But Lincoln still has no laws protecting LGBT residents from discrimination. The city has proposed a 'fairness amendment' that would remedy the situation by banning anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, housing and hotels. But many people oppose the measure. At a May public hearing, one local woman delivered an epic homophobic rant that demonstrated just how much work remains to be done educating Lincoln residents about the dangers of discrimination.