Life Abuse and Hate Crime How to survive a hate crime by Mark Reed | @mark_reed88 The 11th of June, 2016, was a Saturday night like any other at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Last orders had been called at the bar as the crowd danced on to the final few songs. At the same time, Omar Mateen walked into the club with an assault rifle and opened fire. He killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in one of the most horrific LGBT hate crimes in history. You might want to think differently but violence towards the LGBT community is alive and well. Last year, forces in England and Wales released figures showing that homophobic attacks had increased by almost a quarter since the previous year. In 2014-15, 5,597 hate crimes were recorded against gays and lesbians – an unprecedented rise of 22 percent on the previous year – which could be down to the increase of people reporting incidents. So with hate crime looking like it’s on the rise, we all need to be extra vigilant and and look out for ourselves, and each other. But what can we do to stay out of harm’s way? LGBT hate crime prevention charity GALOP shares their advice on how to avoid conflict, and deal with it if necessary. BE AWARE Take note of your surroundings, and of the people around you. If there are choices about where to walk, always choose well-lit, populated areas and stay near to main roads. Avoid lonely short-cuts at night. Move away from groups of people behaving in an erratic or provocative manner. Cross the street, change direction or grab a cab if you think there is danger. Try not to draw attention to yourself. SAFETY IN GROUPS When travelling at night, try to travel with friends as much as possible. If you find yourself alone on top of a bus, or in an empty tube or train carriage, move as soon as you can to where there are other people, or get off if you feel it might be safer to do so. If you can afford it, get cabs for journeys by yourself. BE CONFIDENT Whether you feel confident or not, walk with your head up and in a determined manner. Look like you know where you are going, even if you don’t. If you feel nervous, or alone, remind yourself that you have as much right to be walking the streets as anyone else. DRINK AND DRUGS If you are out of it, you are more vulnerable. If you know you will be drinking or taking drugs, arrange to travel with friends. Try to stay with them when you’re out and don’t take off by yourself. BE MINDFUL IN THE BAR Take care of your drink at all times, and don’t accept alcohol or drugs from strangers if you don’t know where they came from. When you meet someone you want to leave a club or bar with, try to introduce them to a friend before you leave. If you live alone and are taking them home, mention that you have a flat mate who is probably in (or a friend sleeping on your sofa) – even if you don’t. Someone who intends robbing or harming you may be deterred if they think you have company. AVOID CONFLICT If a situation looks like it might turn violent, try not to engage. Try to calm the situation down or look instead for ways of getting out of the situation. There is no shame in refusing to fight or trying to get away, especially if the odds are against you. IF YOU ARE ATTACKED Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if you are attacked, you may decide to fight back, but try to get help and attention. Shout to bring others to your assistance. Sometimes shouting ‘Fire!’ will bring people more quickly. If your attacker has a weapon, try to run. Get help as soon as you can. THE POLICE CAN HELP The police take homophobic crimes very seriously, so if you are a victim do report it as soon as possible. This includes verbal abuse, name calling, harassment, vandalism or actual physical attack. The police can’t do anything to improve the situation unless they know it’s happening. If you do report it to the police, make sure they give you a crime reference number and always ask for a copy of the crime report to be sent to you. WHAT’S A HATE CRIME? A hate crime is a crime that is carried out against a person that is believed to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards any aspect of that person’s identity. This includes: disability; gender identity; race; ethnicity or nationality; religion; faith or belief, and sexual orientation. Most hate crimes are acts of physical and verbal abuse, but they can also include harassment. For more info or to report a homophobic attack in London visit www.galop.org.uk, ring 020 7704 2040 or email [email protected]. Outside London, contact local police as most constabularies now have dedicated LGBT liaison officers and hate crime units.