Report hate crime – gay community told

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THE gay community must report homophobia in a bid to stamp it out, a major event in St Leonards heard this week.

Representatives from local councils, the police and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups came together for the conference at Azur in St Leonards to discuss how to encourage people to report hate crimes and incidents.

Graham Hill, of Victim Support which organised the event, said: “Confidence is the biggest thing that comes up time and time again – people suffer in silence if they do not have the confidence to tell someone about it. People live with it and it becomes part of their life but absolutely nobody should have to live under a cloud of suffering.”

Mr Hill said in Hastings hate crime reports went up from 87 to 116 last year as people were more willing to speak out. But if people don’t report incidents, it is possible that funding might be cut because the powers-that-be might not realise the true extent of the problem.

Philip Holden-Jennings was one of three speakers who shared their experiences of dealing with homophobia. He talked about “running a gauntlet of hate” to and from gay clubs in the 1980s and discussed a serious assault that left him in hospital.

He said public opinion had to change: “The law says I can walk down Hastings seafront hand in hand with my partner but I would not try it because I cannot face the hassle nor the abuse. The problem is people’s attitudes and you cannot legislate for that.”

The event heard about the work of The Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance, which represents the local LGBT community in official consultations, and the Hastings and Rother Gay Helpline, manned between 7pm and 9pm every Wednesday but with a 24-hour answerphone for people to seek help or report hate crime incidents.

The helpline number is 01424 444777 or visit www.hrra.org.uk for information.