A recent homophobic attack in New Zealand left an 18-year-old man unconscious in a gutter for hours.
Zakk D’Larte never felt unsafe before but had a serious wake-up call last week. “I knew homophobia was around but I didn’t realise it was this bad,” he said.
But you don’t have to go far to find local examples of homophobic and transphobic violence.
This interactive crime map groups reports made to ACON’s Anti-Violence Project in the past three years into geographical locations throughout New South Wales.
View a larger version of the Homophobic / Transphobic Crime Map (NSW) in a larger map
But apparently the map doesn’t show a complete picture. Research shows that only 13% of victims of homophobic or transphobic violence and abuse file a report.
Sydney resident Ashley Nichols was one of them. Attacked on the way back from the shops a few years ago, he never forgot the brutal encounter. “The attacker continually hurled homophobic abuse, including ‘disease fucker’ and ‘cheeky faggot’,” he recalls.
Mr Nichols managed to fight him off and immediately reported the crime.
Anti-Violence campaign Speak Up was set up to encourage others to do the same. Launched in February 2010 in a partnership between ACON’s Anti-Violence Project (AVP), the Police Force and the City of Sydney, the campaign has failed to meet expectations.
Photo: Speak Up campaign poster with Chief Supt Donna Adney
“We expected to be inundated with reporting of crime and we weren’t,” says Chief Supt Donna Adney, who was the face of the campaign on one of the posters.
“We believe there has been a small increase in reporting as a result of the campaign but statistically we can’t produce anything that supports that,” she adds.
But she explains the challenge: “Homophobic crime is difficult to measure as you may be assaulted and be gay or you may be assaulted because you are gay.”
AVP’s team leader Robert Knapman admits he also expected the campaign to generate higher levels of reporting. “It doesn’t mean the campaign wasn’t successful – it means we need to think more creatively about our messages,” he explains.
“Homophobic crime is difficult to measure – you may be assaulted and be gay or you may be assaulted because you’re gay.”
The messages consisted of posters, bus shelter advertising, postcards and pull-up banners. In its final attempt to attract attention, it will spread to drink coasters at a bar near you.
But what exactly was the message? Members of our Same Same forum say that the campaign slogan ‘no matter how small the incident’ is confusing.
“If I’d reported all the homophobic jibes and taunts I’ve seen and experienced on Oxford St, I’d be considered a nuisance to the police and most situations they’d ignore,” says Nichols, who hears homophobic remarks nearly every weekend.
Knapman says that the slogan was intended to highlight that the AVP is interested in more than just physical violence.
“Recently someone who was verbally abused reported the incident to the AVP and the Police. This particular report included the registration number of the vehicle where the abuse came from, which could be very useful.”
Using language in public which would offend a reasonable person is a criminal offence known as offensive language, says Chief Supt Adney. “But there is the gray area of what’s offensive and what’s not and what a reasonable person is and what’s not.
“So my advice is if you feel victimised or offended by it, then you should report it,” she says.“There’s probably not a lot realistically we can do about abusive hurl reported later on but if a number of people report it we can put more police into that area.”
But if no one reports crime, Police doesn’t find out about it. “Unfortunately, often people think ‘someone else will report it’ but everyone might think the same,” she concludes.