On September 20, 2013 after visiting a friend in Newlands, St. Catherine, a 22-year-old Jamaican was walking home. Without warning, a mob of about 20 to 30 men began shouting, “Ketch di battyboy!” meaning catch the faggot.
“Kill the battyman!” they shouted. “Hol’ him no mek him get ‘way!” meaning, Kill the battyman; hold him, don’t let him escape!
He began running for his life. Feeling three stones slamming into his back, he continued running until he couldn’t see anyone or anything. “One stone left a scar on my upper back,” he stated.
He escaped through a gully onto a football field out of the community of Newlands onto the Braeton Parkway Main Road where he got a taxi and headed home, 15 minutes away.
But “Medical attention may be needed as I am feeling back pains as well as chest pains,” he explained. “Also, when the stones caught me as I was running that night I could taste blood in my saliva. But I am not in a position to afford the medical attention which is why I have not been to the doctor as yet.”
He said he knew I was an advocate for the LGBT community. “I wanted to record this abuse so that it is documented as proof to challenge the Jamaican government that the country is indeed homophobic,” he explained. He also informed me that although he was not from the community where the attack took place, he had passed the men who attacked him on several occasions before without incident.
What made this time different? I wanted know. “I think I may have been attacked because the person I visited was known by community members to be gay,” he explained. “That’s my opinion I am not sure but that is the only thing I could think of because I am not a flamboyant person.”
He was understandably fearful of reporting the incident to the police because he felt he would be ridiculed and further victimized. I can understand his fear. This reminded me of two years ago when a young gay man in Montego Bay was similarly attacked near his home by a man who hurled stones and homophobic slurs at him.
When he went to report the incident to the police, they ridiculed him saying that he had not suffered an attack because what had occurred was a mere “stone-throwing.” This was because none of the projectiles had actually hit him.
When that young man had called me from the police station to report this ridiculous statement by the police, I immediately drove to the station. There, I had a frustrating debate with the recording officer in the lobby before finally convincing him that what had occurred was in fact an assault and that he had a duty to take the report.
Since that time, the Jamaican police have been more responsive to anti-gay attacks. This is no doubt in part because I sought and received Precautionary Measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Jamaican state for the documented refusal of the police to respond to my own death threats as well as the vicious and ongoing homophobic assaults against two other gay Jamaicans. The island’s Commissioner of Police has also issued a directive that all victims of crime must be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation.
Regarding the Newlands victim, I urged the young man (who has agreed to his story being made public, but not his name) to go to the police and make a report. If necessary, I advised him to take along a friend. It is imperative that the report be made as his assailants may be planning another attack. He therefore needs to get advice from the police (such as it will be) on how to protect himself.
Thankfully, he heeded my advice. The following day, he went to The St Catherine South Police Division HQ. He said the police were professional in taking his report but, regrettably, they advised him that there is very little they can do to assist because he cannot identify his assailants.
There was no attempt to employ even basic investigative techniques to find the perpetrators of this attack. And considering that Jamaican LGBT individuals have been under siege over the last month, these sorts of attacks certainly warrant more robust attention.
While we work to eliminate Jamaican homophobia through legal challenges, public advocacy, etc., it is imperative that the police are trained on how to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. It is also critical that the public see the police as effectively responding to these attacks. That will hopefully force them to think twice before launching anti-gay assaults. The Police LGBT Sensitivity Training my husband Tom Decker and I are facilitating across the Caribbean will hopefully assist in achieving this goal