Hate 'everyday reality' for gays
Some gay people in sleepy villages and rural towns are being relentlessly bullied because of their sexuality - leaving some too scared to leave the house, an expert has warned.
A new study suggests hate crime is an "everyday reality" for many lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who said harassment and verbal abuse is "part and parcel" of their lives.
But they are not reporting it because they fear police won't take them seriously or they might be 'outed' to their families.
Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy, a lecturer at the University of Leicester's Centre for Hate Studies and author of a new report into hate crime, said people in rural communities are being left "lonely and isolated with nowhere to turn".
She said: "There were many instances in which LGB and T people were being targeted by young people within their area. It would often start with young people shouting derogatory names and then escalate to where victims' houses were being vandalised.
"Victims were often fearful about reporting these forms of hate crime in case it made the situation worse. It is these everyday experiences that are incredibly difficult to deal with - the drip, drip effect."
She said LGBT people feel they are more likely to be the victim of hate crime if they are "noticeably different" - potentially making those in villages particularly vulnerable.
She said: "Within rural locations those differences are maybe magnified, and so young people will often target someone who they see as being different in that context.
"The impact can be devastating. Some LGBT people are scared to leave the house, feeling anxious, fearful and vulnerable. I heard from some LGBT people who had taken practical steps to feel safer such as installing CCTV.
"In a rural location hate crime can be especially damaging, particularly for older LGBT people. There often isn't that sense of community or a social group where you can access support.
"It is a big issue. Too many LGBT people are feeling lonely and isolated, and that there is nowhere to turn."
Dr Hardy made the comments as she published the latest in a series of studies into hate crime victimisation.
She found that 88% of the 50 people she spoke to in-depth for the new report had been a victim of a hate crime.
But Dr Hardy said national statistics suggest it is hugely under-reported, with around 35,000 cases of hate crime against LGBT people going unreported every year.
She said: "The impact is huge, not only from this research but from our previous studies, we know that it has a significant emotional, physical health impact on people where they are scared to go out. They are scared to reveal that aspect of their identity."
The new report, entitled LGB&T crime reporting: identifying barriers and solutions, coincides with a major new campaign to encourage people to report abuse which is funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Carrying the message 'Recognise it Report it' the campaign seeks to empower LGBT people to stand up against hate crime through education and training, and launches as the community celebrates Pride this week.
Deputy chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Caroline Waters said it is "unacceptable" the community "still face such persistent prejudice, abuse and discrimination".
She said: "It is a tragedy that there is still a backdrop of intolerance and abuse which stays largely unreported and hidden from society.
"We are a country with proud traditions of tolerance and respect but we must not let important progress in areas such as same-sex marriage mask the acute and continuing challenges that still remain.
"Researchers in today's report were told of victims fear of not being taken seriously, how they were scared of being 'outed' and suspicion and distrust of the authorities.
"We must all redouble our efforts, and work together to give LGB and T communities a stronger voice and put an end to the hatred that is a blight on modern society."
Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan said: "The EHRC has my full support in its campaign to encourage LGB&T people to report hate crimes to the relevant authorities, and they deserve to know that when they report these abhorrent crimes they will be taken seriously and dealt with fairly."