A 22-year-old man says he is “definitely afraid of being alone on the streets now” after he was allegedly gaybashed in the early morning hours of Sept 2 as he was heading home from a Victoria gay nightclub.
Josh Brighton, who recently moved to Victoria from Ottawa to serve in the navy, had just left Paparazzi and was attempting to hail a cab alone around 1:45am at the corner of Douglas and Johnson streets — a block away from the club — when he heard two men call him “faggot.”
“I said, ‘Yeah, I am gay,’ and I asked them if they had a problem with that,” Brighton told Xtra. “They said, ‘Yeah.’” He says the two men then allegedly started hitting him.
Brighton says he attempted to run back to the club for safety, but the men gave chase. The men allegedly knocked him down, hit him repeatedly on the head and shouted hate slurs at him.
“I don’t remember the exact slurs or whatever they used,” he says. “I got knocked down a couple times and was in flight. It lasted about three to four minutes.”
Brighton, who is 5’6”, says he didn’t fight back against his attackers, both of whom he describes as being about 6’ tall.
Brighton suffered bruises on both sides of his head, his leg and his hand and cuts on the inside of his mouth.
“It was two versus one. Fighting back would have escalated it,” he says. “I was on the phone with 911, and one of the guys pointed out that I was trying to call the cops, and the other one took my phone and smashed it,” Brighton further alleges.
Police did not arrive at the scene.
The attackers eventually stopped when Brighton managed to get back to Paparazzi, where he remained until the club closed 10 minutes later.
This reporter happened to be at Paparazzi and saw Brighton immediately after the alleged attack. His shirt was stained with a large smear of blood, and his smashed BlackBerry lay in pieces on Broad St in front of the club. Brighton was visibly shaken, crying and not speaking coherently at the time.
One of the bartenders at Paparazzi says Brighton told him what happened but that Brighton refused his offer to call the police for him. A club patron eventually helped Brighton into a cab to get home.
The next morning, Brighton reported the incident to military command, who ordered him to get himself checked out at the military hospital. Despite bruising on both sides of his head, he was found to have no concussions.
Victoria police say they are investigating the assault as a hate crime, but say they have no leads at present.
Sgt Jamie McRae of the Victoria Police Department (VPD) says that Brighton first filed his complaint to the VPD at 9am that morning, making it difficult for the police to find suspects.
“There have been no witnesses that [Brighton’s] been able to provide,” McRae says. He says police have not issued a public call for witnesses either.
“We usually want to get video first. When we have something like this, when it’s reported after the fact, the first thing we do is to find video from the nearby businesses,” McRae says. “Unfortunately, [Paparazzi’s] video surveillance stream does not record outside the club.”
McRae says the VPD is contacting businesses on Johnson St to see if any of them have surveillance of the street.
Assault victims should report incidents to the police as soon as possible in order to aid investigations and potentially lead to arrests, McRae says.
“It’s much more difficult to recapture information after the fact if we don’t get the report until morning,” he adds. “We would usually try to respond to complaints as they happen, flood the area with police to try to find suspects and witnesses.”
Statistics Canada recently reported that the number of reported gaybashings in Canada doubled in 2008 compared to 2007, a trend some say points to greater willingness of victims to report hate crimes to the police.
Meanwhile, Brighton says he is recovering from his injuries.
“Physically, I’m kinda sore still,” he says. “It’s very traumatizing. It shakes you that walking down a Canadian street, especially in British Columbia, that you think you’re safe. This shook my belief in that.”