Not a victim, but a survivor.
That’s the message around a small-town campaign aimed at raising funds and combating homophobia, following a brutal attack that may have stolen one gay man’s ability to walk.
Scott Jones was stabbed in the back on Oct 13 outside a bar in his hometown of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. While police have yet to determine the motivation for the attack, friends who were with Jones that night say there’s little doubt that he was targeted because of his sexuality.
But in a message from Jones, posted to a support website created to finance his recovery, he says he’s been able to cut through the negativity.
“During this hard time, it has been near impossible to look at the bad because I have been surrounded by so much good,” he says.
At the time of the attack, Jones had just returned to Nova Scotia after living abroad.
Rural Nova Scotia has, in recent years, been the site of numerous attacks that have been unsettling for the province’s minority populations. According to police statistics, Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of hate crime in Canada, with 47 crimes reported in 2012, seven of which were against LGBT people. But the community reaction to the attack on Jones has pushed back against any trappings of hatred that might permeate the region.
According to Support Scott Jones, a website created by friends to help cover the costs of Jones’s rehabilitation, nearly $75,000 has been raised thus far, from a slew of individuals and businesses. Jones’s family, it says, doesn’t have the resources to cover the costs that will come along with years of rehabilitation.
Jones’s friends got together the week after his attack to organize the fundraising effort. More than 100 people showed up, and the group, which had no plans of collecting money at the meeting, left with $3,400 in donations.
“We also had buttons made to distribute for people so they can carry a little piece of Scott with them and show their support,” says Stephanie Cooper, a friend of Jones’s who is helping organize the effort.
One café promised to donate $1 from every purchase to the fund. A local art gallery held a benefit and auction. A local movie theatre, on the last day before its closure, donated half its revenue to Jones. A calendar on the site has been filling up with other similar events.
“New Glasgow — I love you!” Jones wrote in his message.
The website has received more than 70,000 hits from around the world — thanks, in part, to columnist Dan Savage, who alerted his readers to Jones’s fund — and boasts hundreds of comments from supporters.
Messages of support on the website come from everyone from “a friend of your Aunt Mabel’s” to a classmate who took the same bus as Jones to people in Mexico, England and Nepal.
With all that, Jones wrote, “it’s pretty hard to give up.”
Police charged 19-year-old Shane Matheson in connection with the stabbing. He faces attempted murder charges, amongst others. While friends of Jones who were with him that night say a second man was involved, police do not appear to be searching for a second suspect. A spokesperson for the New Glasgow Police Service says police are still assessing the evidence and will classify the attack as a hate crime if there’s sufficient proof.
If the attack is classified as a hate crime, it could have an impact on sentencing, if Matheson is convicted.