The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and NSW Police have launched a campaign to encourage gay and lesbian crime victims to come forward, just in time for the busy Mardi Gras period.
The AVP’s Nancy de Castro said research showed gays and lesbians often felt a heightened fear of homophobic violence during Mardi Gras, and that the warmer months of the year were associated with a rise in street crime.
“We certainly get more reports at the Anti-Violence Project at this time of year when people are out on the streets a lot more often,” de Castro told Sydney Star Observer.
Police have helped fund the campaign which is an update of the 2005 ‘Dyke Bash Poof Abuse Lezzo Hate Fag’ campaign. The three campaign posters feature photographs of a gay man, a lesbian and NSW Police Gay and Lesbian spokeswoman Supt Donna Adney.
De Castro said the project aims to improve the flow of information on crime affecting GLBT people to the AVP and police.
“Because of the enormous level of underreporting, reports to the AVP are only a small indicator of actual levels of violence — which is why we need a campaign like this so we can get a clear picture of what’s going on,” she said.
“It’s very hard to respond to anecdotes and rumours — we really do need to have the evidence so we can demand that resources be directed to the right places.”
De Castro said it was vital for community members to report any sort of harassment, and if they were unsure whether particular behaviour constituted a crime, the AVP could advise them.
Supt Adney said it was vital for community members to report crime to police, whether they thought it was homophobic or not.
“If victims believe there is an element of homophobic behaviour by the offender, victims need to tell the police what the offender said or did that makes them believe it was homophobic,” Adney said.
“It is vitally important that victims give police as much information as possible as soon as possible after the offence has been committed.”
Adney encouraged those reporting crime to the police to contact the AVP as well, and said she was particularly concerned about homophobic violence directed at young people.
“When police take a report of crime and with help from the victim we identify a sexual preference prejudice element we are able to include that in the report,” she said.
“You may be a victim of crime and be gay or you may be a victim of crime because you’re gay. Either way, report the crime to police.”
info: In an emergency call 000; you can also contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 and the AVP on 9206 2166 or freecall 1800 063 060.