Safe Place Project fights homophobic violence

Safe Place project officer Rose Hogan, Caddies Caf owner Vicki Sheaffe, Barry Lampard from the Lismore Workers Club and Sergeant Jodie Hamilton at the launch of the Safe Place Project on Monday.

Lismores top cop, Superintendent Bruce Lyons, delivered a strong message of support for the local gay and lesbian community at Mondays launch of the Safe Place Project, calling it a job well done.

The project is being run by ACON Northern Rivers, and has 50 local businesses signed up to provide a safe place for anyone experiencing street-based homophobic harassment or violence. It was made possible with $5000 worth of funding from the Lismore Workers Club.

An ACON survey of 180 people last year found that 53 per cent had experienced homophobic violence or harassment in the local area.

I know there are times when your community is exposed to harassment that should never take place, said Superintendent Lyons. The police community need to support you, and today in a public way, I want to give you that support. I hope you can give us the confidence that we will take your concerns seriously and do whatever we can to make your lot a better one. Because you deserve that.

ACON CEO Stevie Clayton said under-reporting to police was always an issue.

People think they wont get a sympathetic response from the police, she said. But then the police cant justify developing programs to tackle homophobic violence because they dont have the data to show theres a problem.

ACON Northern Rivers manager Dr Tania Lienert said if people felt threatened or distressed they could look for businesses sporting the Safe Place sticker and know that staff within would provide support.

She said situations could range from seeing a group of drunken young men approaching, being verbally abused by strangers on the street or being threatened with violence.

Depending on the situation the staff may call the police, lock the door or simply let you wait inside until you feel safe to leave, she said.

To become a Safe Place phone 6622 1555. To report homophobic violence or harassment call 1800 063 060.

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