Call to report violence

Call to report violence

Less than 1 percent of homophobic assaults are reported to police, a new study has found.

The University of Newcastle’s Cultural Institutions and Practices Research Centre report, When the Glitter Settles: Safety And Hostility At And Around Gay And Lesbian Events, gives a damning insight into public perceptions of safety and hostility at large scale gay and lesbian events.

The paper is based on the findings from an internet survey completed by 332 people, as well as a series of face to face interviews conducted at three Mardi Gras.

The study suggests a steady undercurrent of violence and abuse during and after large-scale events, the majority of which goes unreported.

About 40 percent of respondents had seen a violent or abusive interaction, though of the more than 500 sighted attacks only four were reported to the police, or less than 1 percent.

Survey participants also noted increased feelings of danger after the event and many had individual strategies for minimising the threat, which included dressing down to appear straight.

“Personally I’m not surprised by the results, based on my experiences of going to Mardi Gras over the past 20 years,” researcher Stephen Tomsen said.

“But I think a lot of people would be surprised by the findings. There is this assumption that Mardi Gras is filled with good will and cheer, that needs to be challenged.”

Though the report recognises the efforts made by organisers and police in the past, Tomsen said it was no time for complacency.

“This is no time to drop the ball or become complacent about reporting events to police,” he said.

NSW Police GLBT spokeswoman Superintendent Karen Webb said under-reporting was a significant problem.

“The underreporting of all types of hate related incidents is a common finding in research from around the world – reporting a hate crime is a very difficult thing to do,” she said.

“Our message to the community is to report all incidents to the police – even seemingly trivial acts. Physical acts are often preceded by verbal abuse, so every incident is important. “

ACON CEO Stevie Clayton agreed: “What we have found in the past few months in dealing with the police, is that it is really important to report incidents because the police only allocate resources in relation to the rate of reports.

“So it is important in terms of trying to make the Oxford St, Darlinghurst area safer all year round.

“We also want to encourage people to take a range of measures to protect themselves during Mardi Gras season – stay in groups, think about the way you are dressing and use taxis if you can afford them. And of course, we will be having the safe space open on Oxford St after Fair Day and the parade, to go to if you feel unsafe.”

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