Homophobia case study: ‘There’s no classification of these crimes’

Dublin woman punched in face and head during attack calls for hate crime legislation

  Vickey Curtis on   Camden Street where she was attacked  by a man who said: “I voted Yes for equality but I didn’t vote for that”. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Vickey Curtis on Camden Street where she was attacked by a man who said: “I voted Yes for equality but I didn’t vote for that”. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Vickey Curtis always believed she was strong enough to withstand a couple of punches. As a gay woman, she had experienced some verbal abuse on the streets of Dublin but never violence.

It took three months for Curtis to accept what happened to her the night she was attacked on Camden Street last year. Curtis and two of her female friends were walking home around 1am when a man approached them and began shouting abuse.

“He told us to ‘take off your trousers, take off your knickers, show us your arses’. We told him it wasn’t cool to say that and he said ‘you f***ing feminists’.”

The man grabbed the glass bottle of tonic water from Curtis’s hand and hit her over the head with it. He then shouted “I voted Yes for equality but I didn’t vote for that” as he pointed at Curtis.

“That still rings in my ears, even today. It’s really upsetting. I worked so hard at canvassing around the same-sex marriage referendum. But now I feel it’s foolish to think we’re beyond that s***e. That behaviour’s still out there.”

The women tried walking away but when the man continued shouting abuse Curtis’s friends began shouting back.

“One of my friends is straight, the other is gay, but they’re both very fem looking. He singled me out because I look gay – I have short hair, wear skinny jeans, no make-up. He started calling me a queer, saying go back to the George [pub].”

The man then offered to shake Curtis’s hand before punching her four times in the face and the head. He then fled the scene. Curtis reported the incident to the gardaí and went to hospital for a check-up the following day. Her employers gave her a week of paid leave and organised counselling sessions. However, Curtis says the impact of the incident only really hit home once the sessions had ended.

Nervous alone

The 35-year-old says her behaviour has changed since the assault and that she often feels nervous walking alone.

“There are certain hours I wouldn’t walk home and I found myself flinching around groups of men. If I’m in a place and someone throws me a strange look I immediately feel uncomfortable.”

Curtis says the introduction of hate crime legislation would encourage more victims of homophobic crime to report the incident to gardaí. “We can do as much education as we want about not targeting someone for their race or sexuality but if there’s no ramifications, what’s the point in educating? There’s no classification of these crimes, you just get a slap on the wrist for getting into a fight.”