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BC government won’t fund gaybashing support worker

It's unacceptable, police inspector says

"I'm not going to tell a fag with a puffy jaw that he can talk to a survivor-of-sexual-abuse worker," says Qmunity executive director Jennifer Breakspear. Credit: Janet Rerecich photo

The head of BC’s Victims Services Division won’t fund a designated gaybashing support worker despite the community’s obvious need for one, says Qmunity executive director Jennifer Breakspear.

Breakspear says her office at BC’s queer resource centre sees gaybashing cases on a weekly basis.

“We see people who have been victims of gaybashing come here after they’ve left St Paul’s, when they are bruised and swollen severely. They are seeking support and services.”

Breakspear has been actively lobbying the government all year for funding — to no avail.

A designated staff person could support those who have been gaybashed, help them report to police and navigate the court system, she says. The position could also launch outreach programs to address gaybashing at its roots.

Qmunity sees a lot more gaybashing reports than the police do, Breakspear notes. “We encourage them to report the violence to the police. Some do and some don’t.”

Breakspear says she does what she can to help, but resources are limited for the non-profit organization.

“We do this support off the side of our desk. There’s no money.”

Breakspear says the government has funded community dialogue sessions with the Vancouver Police Department to draw attention to hate crimes, but says more support is needed.

At a Dec 3 meeting with Susanne Dahlin, executive director of the Victims Services Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Breakspear says she was told no money would be provided for the initiative.

People who have been gaybashed should access mainstream victims service programs already in place, she was told.

“All of our existing funds for ongoing victims services programs are presently allocated for the fiscal year,” Dahlin confirms.

She would not commit to funding a designated gaybashing position in the future.

“It’s a question of dollars,” she told Xtra on Dec 7.

The government is reviewing some of the existing 160 victims service programs province-wide in an attempt to make them more inclusive, Dahlin adds.

“We’re looking at our programs and reviewing our programs to see where there are gaps and the need for sensitivity training.”

For now, Dahlin directs people who have been gaybashed to a 24-hour helpline.

She also says the BC Society for the Survivors of Male Sexual Assault can provide support to the gay community.

Breakspear says that doesn’t cut it. “I’m not going to tell a fag with a puffy jaw that he can talk to a survivor-of-sexual-abuse worker,” she says.

A person who’s been gaybashed needs help because “he’s been beaten for being queer and not because of sexual abuse,” she says.

The executive director of the BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse says his program is gay-inclusive but agrees the gay community needs its own specialized worker.

“There are Chinese victim service workers, Aboriginal victim service workers, every subculture has a victim service worker except the gay and lesbian community,” Don Wright says.

The gay community needs to demand this service too, he says.

Meanwhile, Wright says members of the gay community are welcome at his office and adds that he and his staff could provide service work out of Qmunity on an on-call basis if needed.

Insp Mario Giardini of the Vancouver Police Department’s diversity section also thinks the community needs specialized gaybashing support services.

“I’m totally on board,” he says. “There is an extra-sensitive need with the gay and lesbian community.

“When you’re dealing with the victims of a gaybashing you’re not only dealing with one person,” he says. “You’re dealing with the person’s partner and family. It has to do with being sensitive. It is totally different dynamics when the person is gay or lesbian, than when they are straight.”

Giardini considers the province’s refusal to allocate funds unacceptable.

“They don’t see the bigger picture. I don’t think that they really see the gravity of it…. One victim is one too many,” he says.