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Crime

This hate crime victim faced his attacker and the result was stunning

Sarah Charlton June 26, 2015

This hate crime victim decided to sit down with his attacker, rather than press charges. The result may surprise you.

Graham Holmes reveals to PinkNews the harrowing truth of hate crimes the LGBT community experience on a daily basis.

The victim, currently living in Ipswich, describes himself as a proud gender-fluid individual who identifies as male.

Like a fairly large proportion of the LGBT community, Holmes has experienced being a victim of a hate crime first hand, and says he is shocked by Equality and Human Rights Commission data which estimates that 35,000 anti-LGBT hate crimes go unreported each year.

Holmes describes the last incident he experienced, which took place in May 2013: “I had been shopping like I normally would do on a Saturday morning and I went to get some petrol and went to the kiosk to pay.”

Describing what he was wearing on that memorable day, he said: “Just an ordinary sort of t-shirt, short-ish, just above the knee denim skirt, I can’t remember if I was wearing trainers or flats at the time, but you know I mean it was nothing provocative.”

Upon walking to the counter to pay, he was pushed out of the way: “This guy barged past me, knocked me out the way, so technically it was a physical assault”. What he was about to hear next left him astonished.

“Excuse me I was in the queue.” Graham said. “Shut your mouth you f****ing queer.” Replied the man. Graham described the people in the garage and the people behind the till as ‘gob smacked’ and after speaking them for a while, he also found out that the man was a regular customer at the supermarket.

“The CCTV didn’t catch the registration of the man’s bike, but because he was a regular customer the police were called and they looked at the CCTV and couldn’t see it either.” Graham said.

However Graham reported that about six weeks later the man returned and the CCTV was able to catch the registration plate of the bike. The police began to track him down and ended up knocking on his door.

Graham proceeded to say: “Apparently his wife was absolutely mortified when they asked her husband to come down. I mean he’s 70 years old, he didn’t look it, but he is 70 years old.”

The police asked him whether he wanted to prosecute the man who had had physically and verbally assaulted him. To everyone’s amazement Graham replied: “Well I don’t want to punish him because I’ll just make an enemy…No I want him to sit down and talk to me and tell me why he did that.

“It was the first time I’d actually done anything like that,” he went on.

Restorative justice is an approach to a crime that has been committed where the victim and offender are able to sit down face to face and discuss the matter, rather than taking legal action.

Graham told PinkNews it’s not something “that happens as often as you think”. Nevertheless, he took this opportunity for everything it was worth.

“Yeah the police were good, they set it up and we sat down in I think it was Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s in their coffee shop and a police officer was there as a moderator.” He said.

“I’m really sorry, that’s the way I am, I’m 70 years old and it was the way I was brought up.” The man, Graham called ‘Robert’, proceeded to say: “Oh it’s just bravado.” He continued, eventually running out of excuses.

Graham then began to question Robert: “Right okay now, why did you do it? Do you realise the effect that it has? Do you realise the effect that it might have had?” He continued: “If I went home and slit my wrists about it, what would you have thought about that?”

“So you know, I could see after about the course of 20 minutes, I could see that these questions were beginning to sink in.” Graham said.

“I actually had a little questionnaire set out too, what I call my five questions. Things like ‘why is your opinion more important than anyone else’s and why should I have to listen to it? Things like that.” He continued.

Eventually Robert started to come round and started to understand and, “Asked if he could have a copy and take it home to do some research.”

“‘Okay, yeah fine.” Graham agreed.

“So we sort of shook hands, went our separate ways, and I walked out to the car park with the police officer who said, ‘well that went better than I thought,’” he explained.

About three weeks later, sooner than expected, Holmes said: “I ran into the guy at Sainsbury’s, not deliberately, he had to be there and I had to be there. I didn’t see him, the first thing I heard was him calling my name.”

He continued: “This guy comes bounding up to me, shaking my hand and says, ‘how are you doing?’ And I was just amazed. He was just stood there shaking my hand and he said, ‘You know it’s great to see you.’ ‘I gotta go, my wife’s over there.’ And that was it, and I got the feeling he wanted to make sure everyone within a 50 yard radius had heard him and seen him with me. Which is a bit of a far cry from him swearing at me in a petrol station.”

“So you know what I mean, the restorative justice part of it worked, and it worked really well. But you never know, did he disappear off to the car park later thinking ‘what a sucker!’ But I don’t think he did, because meeting him later, he didn’t have to do that because I didn’t see him.” Graham said.

After asking if he thought restorative justice could help stop incidents like he experienced from happening in the future he said: “For me yeah, oh I’d definitely do it again. But it does require a lot of courage on the victim.”

He continued: “That’s the only thing, if people aren’t going to come forward and admit they have been abused, they’re certainly not going to want to report it to the police, and they certainly aren’t going to want to sit down opposite the guy who abused them.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated yesterday that around 35,000 go unreported each year.

In response to this, Graham said: “I am a little bit disappointed with the figures that came out this week about the levels of reporting. The average amount of reporting is what, 15%?”

He continued: “I can understand why people don’t want to report it, but I would always advocate doing so. I think that’s where I stand on the matter really…So yeah it’ll take a while, but I live in hope.”

More: attack, Cross-dressing, England, graham holmes, petrol station, restorative justice, Sainsbury's, tesco

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