Vancouver police are investigating whether an assault on a lesbian couple Sept 18 was a hate crime.
Ali Matson and her girlfriend Jacqueline Clarke had just exited the 135 bus at the corner of Commercial Drive and Hastings Street when a large Caucasian man attacked them from behind, Matson says.
“He grabbed me by the shoulder, and he punched me in the face with all his body strength,” Matson alleges. “My nose was bleeding everywhere, and he gave me two black eyes. He was not holding back at all.”
Clarke, who exited the bus behind Matson, yelled at the approximately six-foot-three, 200-plus-pounds man to stop. She attempted to pull him off, but he overpowered her and allegedly punched her multiple times in the head as well.
“It was so terrifying because I remember I just sort of watched it all happen and then he turned on me.”
Other bystanders jumped in, trying to detain the man, but he managed to escape, running south on Commercial Drive.
Matson and Clarke say the man screamed repeatedly, “Shut up, you sluts!” during the unprovoked attack, which they believe was prompted by some form of hate against them as a lesbian couple.
“We’ve only been dating a couple of months. We were just flirting and being cute, but he didn’t think so,” Matson says.
Vancouver police spokesperson Constable Randy Fincham says police are investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made.
“There are allegations that the woman was assaulted due to her sexual orientation, an allegation that is taken very seriously by the Vancouver Police Department and one which will be reviewed by our hate crimes unit.”
The couple were on their way to Clarke’s house a few blocks away on the Drive — a neighbourhood known for its openness and strong queer population — when the incident occurred.
Now sporting two black eyes and possibly a broken nose, Matson says that she and Clarke don’t want to let the perpetrator win by changing their behaviour but that the incident has affected their sense of safety.
“I’ve always felt safe here. I’ve never really had any real negative comments about my sexuality. Now, I’m not so sure. I feel traumatized,” Matson says.
Watch Xtra's video interview with Ali Matson and Jacqueline Clarke.