How the LGBTIQA+ community can protect themselves from assault this summer

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In June 2020, the nation was shocked to its core when three men were stabbed to death in Forbury Gardens in Reading, in broad daylight. 

It turned out that the men, who had been enjoying socialising in the sunshine, were victims of a homophobic hate crime. From registered sex offenders to homophobic haters on the prowl, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be vulnerable just for being themselves, unfortunately. 

If you’re sometimes nervous about going out, here are some tips for protecting yourself against assault this summer…

Staying Safe in UK Bars and Clubs

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Clubs, pubs and bars can be great places to meet up with friends and to meet new people. While everybody should, of course, expect to visit these venues without fear of assault, this is sadly not always the case. 

As well as violent hate crime assaults, shockingly, a third of gay men say that they have experienced sexual abuse or assaults while in pubs and bars in the UK. 

While it’s hard to believe in 2022, ‘the panic defence’ has been used in a number of cases in which a member of the LGBTQ+ community has been assaulted. This is a defense whereby the defendant claims that he or she ‘panicked’ when in the presence of a member of the LGBTQ+ community and, therefore, committed the assault.

The fact that this exists is testament to the dangers facing certain members of the community. Protecting yourself during a night out is vital and, there are a few things that you can do to minimise the risk of assault and, these include: 

  • Safety in numbers – Where possible, socialise with a friend or a group and make sure that you both / all look out for one another during the evening, including checking in to make sure everybody got home safely. 
  • Keep an eye on your drink – The UK has experienced a spate of drink spiking incidents in the last year or so, resulting in sexual assaults. Never leave your drink unattended and, avoid accepting a drink from a stranger.
  • Don’t engage with haters – Verbal abuse in bars and clubs can be extremely upsetting but try to resist getting into an argument or engaging in any way with people who make inflammatory comments as this can quickly escalate into violence. Instead, speak to security or management to let them know what’s happening.
  • Stay alert – Having a few drinks to unwind is absolutely fine but always make sure that you don’t drink so much that you’re unable to stay aware of your surroundings and others around you. 
  • The buddy system – Meeting new people is part and parcel of a night out and can lead to a romantic encounter. If you do choose to go home with somebody you don’t know well, make sure that you tell somebody and, where possible, take a photograph of your new friend and send it to a trusted person.

Staying safe outdoors

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As with the tragic murders in Reading, a significant number of assaults against the LBGTQ+ community occur outdoors. Warm summer days offer a great opportunity to socialise with friends in a park or at the beach or even at a festival and, as well as a welcome breath of fresh air, many enjoy the money savings that a picnic or afternoon outdoors can offer. 

How to stay safe outdoors:

  • Buddy up – As with clubs and bars, socialising with people that you know and trust can provide a level of security when spending time outdoors. 
  • Toilets – Stay alert while visiting public conveniences – these are often placed in remote locations where help is not easily found.
  • Trust your instincts – Often, when something doesn’t seem quite right, we keep quiet to avoid ‘making a fuss’. If your instincts tell you that a situation or a person seems ‘off’, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. 
  • Exits – When arriving at a park or a beach, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with exits should you need to leave quickly. This can be really important in making sure that you don’t become trapped should somebody be determined to cause trouble for yourself or your friends. 

While it is tragic that some members of the community need to think about safety when enjoying a simple afternoon in the park, making safety a priority and therefore a habit – makes good common sense.

Report any assaults to the police immediately…

Nobody should ever have to avoid going to certain places or events for fear of assault and, there is clearly a lot of work to be done to reduce hate crimes and sexual assaults in the UK. 

Any violence, sexual abuse or harassment (including verbal harassment) should always be reported to the authorities as soon as possible, as well as to the owner of the premises if in a club or bar. When it comes to personal safety, the first and best defence is to make sure that you are alert and aware of your surroundings to ensure that you’re able to identify any possible trouble. 

Joining communities and forums can also help as these are a good way of alerting others to venues which may be unsafe. Finally, carrying a personal alarm is a simple but effective way of preventing an assault, and these can be picked up cheaply from a number of stores and websites.