Homophobic crime - a personal story
After 10 years living in a warden-assisted bungalow in a close-knit community, David felt relatively comfortable. He knew he would never be accepted as a 'local', but he had got to know many of the families living around him.
Disabled following amputations of both legs below the knee, David had been helped by many of the local youngsters: "Most of them had grown up with me around, and they used to come in and give me a helping hand."
David had not kept his sexuality a secret, but had only told a few trusted friends that he was gay. "I think, though, that most of my neighbours, in their hearts, knew that I was a gay man," said David.
But his sexuality had never been an issue until he met his new partner, a local man, who began to share his home. At the same time, the son of one well-known local couple revealed to his parents that he was gay. They 'blamed' David for their son's sexuality, and he became the target of a lot of aggression and abuse.
"We went out shopping one day, and came back into the house to find a lot of things missing. There wasn't any sign of a break-in, and we realised that someone had used a copy of the door key to get into the house."
After that, items were stolen from David's home more than 10 times in 15 months. The burglars usually stole electrical equipment, although on occasions drugs that David had been prescribed also went missing.
"We had a very good idea of who it was carrying out the burglaries, because only a few people had keys. When we changed the locks, they kicked the door in anyway. And all the time this was going on, supposedly no-one saw anything."
During the same period, David became the target of verbal abuse from neighbours and former friends. Bricks were thrown through his windows, and at one stage a number of local youngsters made accusations that he had sexually assaulted them.
"I went to the police station and sat down with officers and told them everything that had happened. They agreed that the accusations were malicious, but no action was taken against those abusing me."
The final straw came for David when his specially adapted car, a lifeline for him, was stolen and written off.
It was then that David received a call from Victim Support. "I had seen the leaflets before, but I thought 'Why should I discuss my problems and personal details with someone else? These people will simply interfere', but as soon as I started to speak to Victim Support, they made me feel that I could cope. They were sympathetic without being over the top; it was like talking to family."
A Victim Support volunteer accompanied David to court to help him cope with the only case arising from the crimes he suffered - that of the theft of his car. "It was a great help just knowing that someone was there with me, to support me," said David.
Victim Support volunteers were also able to put David in touch with other agencies who eventually managed to find David new accommodation, where he wanted, more than 200 miles away.
Now resettled in a new flat, David still has strong feelings about the community he has left. "It made me feel very angry, to think that I had tried to help these youngsters as much as I could, and had been quite close to some families there. But no-one on that estate could accept that a man could be gay. My partner at that time is still living there; he's frightened that if he left to live with me, his remaining family would be targeted.
"The whole ordeal made me feel dirty, and very insecure. After my car was stolen, I only went out of the house about once a week, to do the shopping; every time I came back, I was scared of what I would find.
"But Victim Support gave me back my sense of self worth. Now I would say to anyone, don't be frightened to ask Victim Support for help. They treat you as a person, not as a number or a crime statistic."
from Victim Support's Annual Report .
(c) Victim Support
This page was last revised:14/06/01
Victim Support National Office, Cranmer House, 39 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DZ.
Tel. 020 7735 9166, fax 020 7582 5712, email@example.com