Homophobic hate crimes continue, but victims more willing to report attacks

Homophobic hate crimes continue, but victims more willing to report attacks

Last week, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis became the first Greek official to sign a same-sex civil partnership agreement following the recent approval of legislation granting homosexual couples almost equal rights to their heterosexual counterparts.

However, according to recent data, the number of homophobic attacks in Greece has not eased. The study was part of the “Tell Us!” project that was carried out by Color Youth, an Athens-based LGBTQ nongovernmental organization. The 48,697-euro project was funded by EEA Grants which are jointly financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The project aims to combat discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Color Youth offers information and support to empower victims of discrimination or abuse so that they can proceed to any legal action.

Between April 1, 2014 and November 30, 2015, the group reported 101 attacks against 140 people. Ninety-six of the cases were reported by victims themselves. Eyewitnesses showed up in only five testimonies.

The vast majority of the victims reported that that they had suffered some form of violence. Only five reported acts of discrimination.

“It is indicative of the situation that of the 140 victims only 10 asked to see a lawyer and only filed a legal complaint,” Thanasis Theofilopoulos, a sociologist who works on the project, told Kathimerini newspaper.

More than half of the hate attacks (52) occurred in public areas such as streets, sidewalks, squares, parks, beaches and bus/train stops. A smaller number, 14, took place at private places such as homes or offices. Nine attacks occurred inside means of transport and an equal number were carried out inside the victims' homes by another family member. Eight incidents took place in public sector offices, six online and two by phone.

“In the vast majority of incidents, eyewitnesses remained passive, while in some cases they actually applauded the perpetrator,” Theofilopoulos said. More often than not, attacks were carried out by groups of people.

The study also provides a breakdown of the attacks. Forty-three assaults against gays or lesbians involved verbal abuse while in 15 incidents, verbal abuse was accompanied by some form of intimidating action (like spitting or throwing an object). Nine of the victims received direct threats, one was seriously beaten and one was raped.

Experts however take heart from the fact that victims of abuse and discrimination now appear more willing to report such attacks.

“We achieved our aim, that is to break the silence of the victims,” Theofilopoulos said. “Month after month, the number of complaints is increasing,” he said.

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