Gay Family in N. Ireland ’Prisoners’ to Neighborhood Abuse
A male couple in the North Ireland city of Londonderry say that they are being terrorized by neighbors who reject them for being a gay family.
A June 12 article in the Derry Journal said that the unnamed couple, who have enjoyed a long-term commitment of 18 years, have reported that the harassment directed against them has been steadily worsening.
"It started with verbal abuse and sexualized remarks by children," one of the men was quoted as saying.
"We went to one mother on the street and she said she had no control over them."
Worse, some of the young offenders are intoxicated. "Sometimes they are fueled with alcohol," the man added.
The combination of alcohol and anti-gay sentiment has led to dangerous encounters. "As I was on the doorstep, one of them tried to throw a glass at me but someone grabbed her hand just in time and it smashed to the floor."
Added the man, "At other times they drive round in circles outside the house trying to intimidate us."
The couple have faced such treatment before, moving away from their previous residence due to the level of abuse they faced.
"This is why we had to leave Galliagh--because we were getting the same treatment," the man recounted.
But the men don’t wish to be driven from their home yet again. "I own this house and have made it a home for me and my boyfriend."
Still, safety concerns may make another relocation a necessity: "We love this house but we just can’t stay here like this. They have threatened to set fire to the house and they throw stones and bottles."
And it’s not just a matter of juvenile delinquency: "The parents are no different from the children," the man went on to say.
"We’ve done nothing wrong to these people and, to be treated like this for being gay, I just can’t handle it.
"We can’t live like this, we’re prisoners in our own home."
The men have the sympathy of GLBT equality advocates. The article quoted Rainbow Project’s David McCartney, who cited legal protections already in place to discourage such abuse. "What is happening to them constitutes harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act," said McCartney.
"When an incident of harassment is reported, if there is a pattern, the police issue a warning to the individuals and if they report further behavior it becomes an arrestable offense."
The men have yet to see action from local police, who declined to comment specifically on the abuse they have faced.
However, a spokesperson for the police encouraged those who have been targeted for harassment and abuse to speak up to authorities.
"Police take homophobic hate crime very seriously. In order for us to tackle the issue, it is necessary for victims and witnesses to report all incidents," the article quoted the spokesperson as saying.
"Hate Incident Minority Liaison Officers are available to provide support and advice to victims.
"We can act on third party reports, which offers a new avenue for family members who may be aware of the situation," added the spokesperson. "It also means that members from the community can help to tackle hate crime from within."
Reports of just such harassment have been growing more commonplace in Northern Ireland. A June 5 Derry Journal article reported on a new study that showed that an estimated 64% of anti-gay crimes in the area over a three-year period were not reported.
Anti-gay crimes have increased too, but McCartney called the trend in reporting such crimes "good news," the article said.
Said McCartney, "Our starting aim was to increase reporting of such incidents and this is the first filtering steps towards tackling the problem.
"However, as we have learned, there is still a reluctance to report such incidents to the police."
An initiative between the PNSI and Rainbow Project was credited with helping bring up reportage. The initiative is to serve as a starting point for a similar national program, the article said.
The survey polled 2,000 area residents, and found that an alarming number of bisexual and lesbian women--11% of respondents--had been subjected to "unwanted sexual contact."
The report also indicated that about a quarter of anti-gay hate crimes were perpetrated by neighbors; a fifth of such crimes took place the victims’ homes, the article said.
Ireland.com reported that the report also showed that just over one-fifth (21%) of gay and bisexual men had been targeted for anti-gay crime and abuse over the last three years; for lesbians and bisexual women, the incidence was somewhat lower, at 18%.
Of those who were targeted for anti-gay harassment, nearly a third (30%) were physically harmed by their assailants.
Such numbers have an effect of generating fear: the report also showed that 39% of those polled said that they consciously to act in a heterosexual manner.