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This is what happened when my flatmate was assaulted at a party for being gay

With a reported rise in hate crime, James Jefferson says you have to stay vigilant even if you think you’re in a safe space

This is what happened when my flatmate was assaulted at a party for being gay
Pixabay | Public Domain
There has been an increase in hate crimes reported in several countries

House parties are supposed to be places of enjoyment. Somewhere surrounded by friends and like-minded people, right?

Socializing, drinking and dancing: For me, house parties have provided some of my most memorable nights out.

Last weekend, my housemate attended a house party that he will remember for all the wrong reasons. He was targeted in an unprovoked, homophobic attack.

Three men targeted him because he is gay. He was struck with a garden chair.

Drinks had been consumed and all involved were intoxicated, but this is no justification or excuse for what happened.

The party, in London, was crowded. You know how people can get pushed and shoved as they squeeze around the party and furniture at a house party. Usually it’s all good natured. You’re all there to enjoy yourself, after all.

‘He placed his arm on another guy’s shoulder’

Unlike a club, the dancefloor – if there is one – is rarely clutter free. A table is pushed to the side and acts as the bar.

My housemate was dancing when he placed his arm on another guy’s shoulder. He needed to stabilize himself on the crowded floor. And everyone else was dancing around with each other. He thought nothing of it.

It was an unconscious gesture, but one which clearly threatened the fragile masculinity of three of the men in attendance – including the guy who he’d draped his arm over.

No immediate reaction was forthcoming from the group to begin with and the night carried on.

People kept drinking, more shots were lined up, and the music carried on.

‘Why are you here?”

In early hours of the morning, whilst the party was still in peak, my housemate went outside for a cigarette. Of course at house parties you don’t have bouncers. The makeshift smoking area (the garden) wasn’t busy.

Cooling down and taking in some air, he was approached and cornered by the three men.

‘Why are you gay?’ one asked him.

‘Why are you here?’ said another.

My housemate, surprised and wanting to avoid conflict, refused to offer a response. He tried to walk forward but the three men had surrounded him. Asked to be allowed to pass, they laughed in his face.

It was at this point one of them picked up a garden chair and hit him over the head with it.

Puzzled, confused and hurt, my housemate shot away. Feeling dizzy with blurred vision, he called his own ambulance. Not wanting to create a scene, he didn’t interrupt the party and listened to the music inside as he waited outside.

‘Hate crimes are on the rise’

He had blood pouring from his head, but didn’t want to go back inside in case the men followed him back out. He was in shock and was still struggling to process what had happened.

Thankfully he was OK. The blow to his head hit the middle of his forehead, a strong part of the skull. If the chair had hit a soft spot, the consequences could have been very different.

He will be left with a scar, but he knows he was lucky. This is not the case for everyone.

Hate crimes are on the rise, and disturbingly, it can happen when you’re least expecting it. Two gay guys in London were recently assaulted on a train ride home.

‘No difference of opinion ever justifies physical attack’

Being at a house party, with fellow university students, my housemate did not think that his sexuality would be an issue. However, it was a sobering reminder to me that you always have to stay vigilant.

We might feel liberated in more metropolitan, urban areas, but attacks like this can’t be predicted. This is 2017 not 1967: We can’t be expected to police our personality around every new person we meet.

But what we can do, is to not let things like this knock us down. My housemate was reluctant in reporting this to the police but he since has. He didn’t want to cause a fuss but the police have stressed to him the seriousness of the crime.

Despite his attack, he won’t live in fear. He admits that he is scared, but time will build his confidence again. He will be more vigilant, but he won’t change who he is.

Young or old, student or a professional, liberal or right-wing – views may differ greatly, but no difference of opinion ever justifies physical attack.

Twitter: jamesajefferson 

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