Every year South Yorkshire’s Victim Support group comes to the aid of thousands of victims of hate crimes in the region.
While the crimes come in many forms - assault, harassment, abuse - they all have one thing in common: victims are targeted simply for being who they are.
These devastating attacks strike at the very core of a person’s identity, whether their race, sexuality, religion, disability or transgender identity, and can have a lasting impact on a their physical and mental wellbeing.
Now the South Yorkshire charity has decided to shine a light on these crimes in an effort to raise awareness of the support that is available.
Someone who knows all too well how vital this service can be is a local bus driver, who asked only to be identified as Steve.
Steve was targeted by his neighbour last year for being gay and was eventually beaten up just a few feet from the safety of his own home.
Steve was beaten up just a few feet from the safety of his own home
While Steve lay helpless on the floor, his neighbour screamed a torrent of abuse at him, branding him a ‘queer’. The attack left Steve and his partner feeling petrified in their own building.
Steve said: “We tried to avoid our neighbour at all costs after that and, instead of using the front door of our building, we would go out on the patio, walk down an embankment and round to the front, which was really hard for us both.”
Steve and his partner moved to a different address but unfortunately they were targeted again. People would shout ‘scum’ at them as they walked down their street and a brick was thrown though their window. One neighbour even assaulted Steve, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.
After the couple reported these incidents to the police, Victim Support South Yorkshire got in touch and provided emotional support through face-to-face visits and checked in with them regularly by phone. They also helped the couple to get rehoused by writing letters to the local housing association, backing up their application to move and detailing the trauma they had been through and the risk to the couple’s safety at their flat. Thanks to Victim Support, the couple now live in a home where they feel comfortable and safe.
Steve added: “It was Victim Support that kept us sane by being there for us. We don’t have family nearby, so I think we would have cracked up without them to turn to. I get flashbacks about what we have been through, but thanks to Victim Support, my partner and I are now moving on from what has happened to us.”
South Yorkshire Victim Support’s manager Lesley McLean said: “We know that these offences can have a devastating and long-lasting impact, especially if they are repeated attacks. Hate crime often impacts on a victim’s self-esteem, physical and mental wellbeing, leaving victims unsure or scared about telling anyone, or seeking the support they deserve.
“At Victim Support in South Yorkshire, we are here to help all those that have been affected by hate crime, whether victims have reported the crime to the police or not, and we are on hand to help immediately after the incident, or at any time afterwards. Our staff and volunteers, based at office in Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield can offer information, practical help and emotional support, so no one needs to suffer in silence.
“Our specially-trained hate crime volunteers offer support tailored to the individual needs of victims of hate crime, meaning we can help people cope with the emotional effects of hate crime, deal with employers, police and housing departments on a victim’s behalf, advise on home security and safety, organise practical help after a break-in, provide information about police and court procedures, escort victims to the police station and to court, and simply be a shoulder to cry on.”
Visit Victim Support for further details of the charity’s services or call your local victim care team on 0300 3031971.