- Leni Morris of hate crime charity Galop examines the rise in hate crime against LGBT+ people in the UK.
The recently released LGBT+ hate crime figures for April 2019 to March 2020 show, once again, an alarming rise in reported LGBT+ hate crime in the UK.
The new figures show that reported hate crimes committed against LGB+ people have risen by a startling 19%, and against trans people by 16%. Overall, hate crime against all protected groups combined went up by 8%.
This continuing rise in hate across the board alone is very concerning, and we are particularly alarmed that this is this the second year in a row that anti-LGBT+ hate crimes have risen at double the rate of other forms of hate crime.
These figures only represent a fraction of the abuse and violence faced by our community in the UK today. Police statistics will only ever show the rise in reported hate crime, and it’s important to recognise that, for many reasons, minoritized people may not report what happens to them.
Research by both Galop and the UK Government has shown that only a small proportion LGBT+ people report the abuse and violence they have experienced.
The continual rise in anti-LGBT+ hate crime has been recently dismissed by some commentators as a result of the increase in social media use. However, the cases reported to Galop show that this a misrepresentation of the real picture.
We see life-changing injuries, assaults, sexual violence, people being forced from their homes, blackmail, and a wide range of other forms of abuse that have real, long-lasting impacts on members of our community who have been subjected to them.
Organized attacks online
We must not allow a narrative that anti-LGBT+ hate crime is just about how people behave online, as this is inaccurate and injustice to victims facing a myriad of violence and abuse.
That’s not to dismiss how online spaces can be used by perpetrators to target LGBT+ people, and the real harms this can cause.
Our research has shown that eight in 10 LGBT+ people have experienced abuse online. We must only look at the targeting of online LGBT+ spaces during Pride month this year to see how damaging and disruptive organized attacks on safe spaces for our community can be.
Pandemic fuels hatred
Meanwhile the full effects of the pandemic will not be reflected in police statistics until the next release, which will cover the summer period.
However, we’ve unfortunately seen evidence that COVID-19 has only further fuelled hate crimes against LGBT+ people.
Through the cases we saw during the first lockdown, we know that violence and abuse was perpetrated in some cases by those blaming the LGBT+ community for the pandemic – with references to both the pandemic being a “punishment from God” and to the AIDS epidemic.
The lockdown also made it easier to identify same sex couples in public. Some couples reported being accused of breaching social distancing rules in the street by strangers who assumed they are not part of the same household, which escalated into homophobic abuse once they realised their mistake.
We saw an escalation of abuse from hostile neighbours, while escaping home became more difficult for those under attack because of the restrictions.
Many still think LGBT+ people are ‘immoral’
It’s difficult to know what drives these kinds of attacks, but we know that there are still significant numbers of people in the UK who hold anti-LGBT+ views.
Our pre-pandemic polling of UK attitudes towards LGBT+ people showed that one in five people find being LGBT+ ‘immoral or against their beliefs’ – and this rises to one in four young people (aged 18 to 24).
More worrying still, one in 10 said they believe that LGBT+ people are ‘dangerous to other people’. The British Social Attitudes Survey last year showed that around 15% of people still think of same sex relationships as ‘always’ or ‘mostly’ wrong.
While this might be hard reading, we must continue to push forward to safety for our community. As we face a winter of potential local and national lockdowns, it is absolutely vital that measures are taken to prevent an upward rebound in hate crime, and to support those LGBT+ people who are targeted.
LGBT+ people deserve the right to access support, to record crimes with authorities should they choose to do so, and to receive a respectful and effective response.
Galop will soon be opening an LGBT+ Hate Crime Helpline, available to LGBT+ people from anywhere in the UK, to offer advice and support to those who have experienced anti-LGBT+ abuse and violence.
In the meantime, Galop’s doors remain open to support anyone experiencing homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or any other type of anti-LGBT+ hate. You can get in touch with us and report what’s happened to you via our site.
Leni Morris is CEO of Galop, the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence and hate crime charity.