Pride season is here and all over the UK people are getting ready to march against prejudice and hate, celebrate and inebriate.
But while our communities take pride in what we have achieved in the fight against prejudice, we are still faced with the reality of hate crime just for being ourselves.
A man sprayed with ammonia in Vauxhall, damaging his eyesight. A couple attacked by a gang in Whitechapel.
This is the reality.
But does this mean anti-LGBT prejudice is on the rise? I feel the answer is no. At least not in the UK, but I don’t want to tell anyone reading this who has recently been through abuse that everything is just fine.
The reality is there is a increase in hate crime reports. London has over a thousand anti-LGBT hate crimes recorded each year so it is still a significant problem.
Exploring the numbers a bit, there has been a small rise in hate crime reports in London, over the last 12 months. For about a decade the LGBT hate crime figures have followed a regular cycle of gentle up and down, which this is a part of. Figuring out what those changes mean is complex. Does the increase mean more hate crime is happening or just that the police are hearing about a bigger chunk of it?
What we do know is the UK is good at recording hate crime. In fact we’re the world leader.
London alone records more hate crimes each year than the whole of America, even though they have over 300 million more people. In fact, most countries don’t record any at all and when they do their accuracy is questionable. Russia would have us believe they had just 12 anti-LGBT crimes last year. And Jamaica? Well they had none!
The real issue for our community remains under-reporting. For each of those thousand hate crimes recorded in London there are others committed against people who suffer in silence and don’t feel able to get support or help.
Galop continues to be at the fore in combating hate crime but we realise it’s not going to end any time soon. Until it does we will continue supporting people from our communities to speak up about violence on the street, harassment at home, or abuse on public transport, to cope with the impact it has had and work with them to support their recovery.
We feel the rise in people speaking and reporting hate crime is a positive sign. In fact, we would like you to join us in encouraging the police to target more of the hidden hate crime our community deals with and reach out to the most vulnerable in our community that find it harder to speak out. That’s part of the solution.
Another part is that once hate crime is reported we need the police and other mainstream agencies to treat those who report well and leave them feeling supported and taken seriously.
Attending a Pride event where so many people come together to celebrate who we are on that day is an exhilarating experience, but we cannot forget that fear of abuse can stop us expressing ourselves freely all year round.
No one wants the nagging worry, am I acting too camp? Too masculine? Am I passing? Everyone should be able to live free from abuse, but not at the expense of hiding who we are.
The British Crime Survey found that 1 in 14 LGB people experience violence each year compared with just 1 in 33 heterosexual people, and it’s a safe bet that the picture for trans people is as bad or worse. I’m proud of our community response to violent attacks like the one in Vauxhall, but verbal abuse is important too.
Some of the biggest impacts we see are to people who have put up with verbal abuse over years from neighbours but struggle to get authorities to listen or people who have a bad memory awakened by verbal abuse. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact these have and we need to do more to make it easier for people to get the outcomes they want from our criminal justice system.
So, what can Galop do for you? Our helpline, online reporting and face to face service gives independent and confidential advice, support and help. If you want to think about your options or are unhappy about the response of police or another agency you can talk to us. Also, our website has lots of useful resources that provides guidance on your legal rights and information on key issues.
And what can you do to support our work? Donations or volunteering are always welcome. Joining your local ward panel to advise the police what you think their priorities should be in your neighbourhood can make a difference too. But, the most important thing you can do is look out for each other; slipping a friend our details if they’re in trouble and challenging anti-LGBT prejudice where you see it.
Find out more about Galop’s work to tackle hate, domestic abuse and sexual violence here or call them on +44 (0)207 704 2040.