Many young gay people say they are reluctant to report hate crimes to Victoria Police for fear of further discrimination, new research shows.
The report, commissioned by Victoria Police, revealed that young people feared they would be outed or not taken seriously, or that reporting crimes would not achieve anything, ABC News has reported.
Only 42 per cent of the people surveyed said they trusted police.
Poor levels of trust have led to under-reporting of hate crimes.
“Their levels of trust were still only about 50 per cent, many of them either because they had bad past experiences or because they had just had absorbed that suspicion that a lot of LGBTI people have of police historically,” said Liam Leonard, lead author of the report.
Leading senior constable and LGBTI liaison officer Gabby Tyacke said particular challenges to trust existed for trans and gender diverse young people.
“Currently where being gender diverse is much more common, people are finding it a bit harder to approach police because they’re just concerned about being misgendered,” she said.
“A lot of the time it happens because of a mistake, people who are speaking to young people are looking at them and identifying them as one gender, where that young person might identify as a different gender.
“If you misgender someone, they immediately shut down and don’t want to talk to you and don’t want your help anymore.”
Victoria Police have already committed to improvement and cultural change after the report was released yesterday.
Recommendations from the research include diversity training, better police presence at LGBTI events, and urgent review of Victoria Police’s programs and policies.
Police have also been advised to consider new alternatives for reporting crimes, such as anonymous online reporting, given many young people’s discomfort with dealing with police.
Leonard said cultural change, beginning with senior members of the force, is crucial.
“Without really senior leadership, whether it’s the local station or it’s the central office, LGBTI issues really won’t be taken up, and that’s true of any organisation,” he said.
“Police have had historically a very bad relationship with the LGBTI community, they’ve been seen as one of the institutions that perhaps have actually enacted discriminatory practices.
“That’s been changing for 10, 15, 20 years and I say this report is part of an ongoing change in making Victoria Police much more open.”