The Independent – James Cusick – Tuesday 23 June 2015
The portrayal of the “only gay in the village” as a tolerated and integrated minority, masks a far harsher reality for Britain’s LGBT community who are subjected to everyday bullying including verbal abuse, discrimination and criminal damage to their property, according to a new report.
The study reveals that hate crime, especially in small rural communities, is often a daily occurrence for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
However high levels of under-reporting – out of fear that police will not treat incidents seriously, or that they will be “outed” to families – is leaving vulnerable victims lonely and isolated.
The report by the University of Leicester’s Centre for Hate Studies estimated that 35,000 cases of hate crime against LGBT people fell below the radar of official crime figures.
The report’s author, Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy, paints a picture of intolerance far removed from the BBC TV Little Britain comedy character, Daffyd Thomas, played by Matt Lucas.
Dr Hardy said that the individuals who contributed to the study described being “targeted by young people” in their area, being verbally abused with derogatory names shouted in the street and their homes daubed with offensive graffiti.
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She said : “If something was done about it, then sometimes the instances got worse and the targeting levels increased.”
According to the study, LGBT people who were “noticeably different” and living in small rural communities, were more likely to be the victims of hate crime.
Of those who were interviewed at length for the study, 88 per cent reported being victimised. The national figures highlighted in the report showed only 4,267 incidents being recorded by police in 2012-13. The most recent Crime Survey [for England and Wales] showed 39,000 homophobic hate incidents over the same timeframe.
The survey reveals that eight in 10 LGBT people have been verbally abused or harassed, with one in 10 suffering physical assault.
Additional evidence suggested that although victims of transphobia [intense prejudice against transsexual or transgender people] could be targeted up to 50 times a year, only three in 10 individuals bothered to report what had happened to them.
The Leicester study lists the “normalisation” of hate crime, concerns about wasting police time, and “negative experience” of police involvement, including being “outed” without permission, as potential reasons for the substantial under-reporting.
Dr Hardy said her research alongside previous studies had shown a targeted minority who were often scared to go out, scared to reveal their identity and were suffering both emotionally and physically from the impact of hate crimes.
The publication of the new study has been co-ordinated with the launch of new campaign to combat the high incidence of LGBT hate crime and to raise awareness of victimisation.
Matt Lucas as “the only gay in the village”, Daffyd Thomas in BBC’s Little Britain (Rex)
The campaign is being supported by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Welsh Government and the Crown Office Scotland and is being co-ordinated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
It is aim is to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and to protect and promote human rights.
Commenting on the UK campaign which carries the message “Recognise it, Report it”, the deputy chairwoman of the EHRC, Caroline Waters, said “It is a tragedy that there is a still a backdrop of intolerance and abuse which stays largely hidden from society.”
Paul Roberts, the chief executive of the LGBT Consortium, which assists voluntary and community organisations in providing support and services, said LGBT communities were already working with the police to help break down barriers. He added : “But too often LGBT people don’t know they are experiencing hate crime or just shrug it off. Our message today is – recognise it, report it and get support when you need it.”