Opinion: Forum+ will be visiting businesses and schools during National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

Tessa Havers-Strong, forum+, is encouraging people to sign Islington's Hate Crime Pledge.

Tessa Havers-Strong, forum+, is encouraging people to sign Islington's Hate Crime Pledge. - Credit: Archant

October 12, 2019 marks the start of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

The LGBT charity, forum+ will be working across Islington and Camden boroughs with local authorities, businesses, schools and police to encourage the public to support and participate in ongoing efforts to reduce hate crime in the area.

Forum+, formerly known as Camden LGBT Forum, became a charity in 2005 following the murder of Jody Dobrowski, who was beaten to death by two assailants - his face was so badly disfigured by the beating, he had to be identified by fingerprints. The forum's mission is to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at all levels in society and tackle the inequalities and barriers faced by LGBT communities.

Since our establishment we have been supporting and representing the LGBT communities in Islington and Camden. Initially working on community safety, we now aim to meet the broader needs of the LGBT communities across the two boroughs.

Over the last decade, we have seen positive changes in legislation with the implementation of the Equality Act, Equal Marriage and the Public Equality Duty. Society as a whole has become more accepting of LGBT people and the issues we face. However, there is still the need to support victims of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic prejudice and crime and forum+ employs a full-time caseworker to do this.

LGBT people continue to face harassment and abuse in the places where they live, work and access services. A "hate crime" is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. It doesn't always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.

During National Hate Crime Awareness Week, forum+ will be providing training to local businesses; visiting schools in the boroughs to raise awareness of how hate crime impacts on minority groups; working with the British Transport Police at key transport hubs in Islington and Camden to encourage people to report hate crimes and incidents.

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If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off. But if you report it, it can be investigated and prevented from getting worse - either for you or someone else.

Forum+ encourages people to sign Islington's Hate Crime Pledge, which asks signatories to unite against hatred or hostility directed at anyone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender status; and to challenge those responsible for hate crimes when they occur. To sign the pledge, please visit: islington.gov.uk/community-safety/tackling-hate-crime

If you are a victim of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic harassment or hate crime, we have numerous ways of supporting you. Contact forum+ to make an appointment to discuss your options with our experienced caseworker, or to report a crime anonymously using our non-police reporting scheme. Also, we can report LGBT+ hate crimes to the police and relevant council organisations on your behalf.