One in three gays is victim of violence

Homophobia: As police investigate murder in city pick-up area, survey shows young homosexuals most at risk from assaults
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Crime Correspondent

More than a third of gay men and women - and half of those aged under 18 - have been victims of homophobic violence in the past five years, the largest survey of its kind reveals.

The preliminary results of the unpublished study come the day after a 64-year-old man was murdered in a park in Plymouth and another was critically injured after being savagely beaten in what is believed to be a case of gay bashing. Both men, who were found just after midnight in a well-known gay pick-up area, had their genitalia and faces slashed with a craft knife and were severely beaten around the head.

It is suspected that they were victims of an increasing number of anti- gay assaults. A nationwide survey of 3,166 lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, found that 35 per cent had suffered violent attacks at least once since 1990. The study, by Stonewall, the national lesbian and gay campaign group, found that many were attacked on numerous occasions. The full results are expected to be published in several months,

Nine per cent of the people who answered questionnaires had been "systematically" beaten up, 16.5 per cent had been hit, punched or kicked, and 4.5 per cent had been assaulted with a weapon. About one in ten had had objects, such as bricks, thrown at them, and about the same number again had experienced other forms of violence, such as being pushed around.

Stonewall asked the respondents to include only violence that they knew was motivated by hatred for gays.

Black and disabled gay people suffered the highest level of violence. Younger people were also more likely to be attacked: almost 52 per cent aged under 18 had experienced homophobic violence. Among those 18 to 25, it fell to 41 per cent, and for over-sixties it was 10 per cent. There was little difference between men and women - about 36 per cent of males had been victims, compared with just over 31 per cent of females.

Stonewall said the attacks recorded in their study were often carried out outside known gay pubs or clubs and in parks or toilets used by homosexuals for sex. There has been growing concern among gays at an apparent rise in such attacks.

Angela Mason, director of Stonewall, said: "This large survey paints a picture of systematic violence and bigotry. The figures about young people are particularly disturbing."

At a conference on anti-gay violence in Manchester on Saturday, Ms Mason will call for an initiative between gays, the police, support groups and local authorities, to tackle the crime.

Attacks on gays

Stonewall's nationwide survey of gays and lesbians showed that: 35 per cent had suffered violence because of their sexuality

16.5 per cent had been hit, punched or kicked

4.5 per cent had been attacked with a weapon