Report Homophobic Violence, Period (RHVP)
The Toronto Police Service’s Community Mobilization Unit has joined a coalition of community members and creative designers to prevent homophobic and transphobic violence among youth and boost reporting of hate crimes.
Report Homophobic Violence, Period. is a public awareness campaign aimed at young people, aged 13 to 25, to address reasons for homophobic attitudes and spur others to report harassment and violence to adults and police.
“We have hate-crime legislation, but it is only as good as its implementation,” says Constable Decker, the LGBT Liaison Officer for the Toronto Police Service. “We want to counteract the underreporting of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.”
Underreporting happens because many victims feel the incident did not get out of control, they won’t be taken seriously, they are embarrassed, or live in fear of isolation and retaliation. Many still feel that by reporting they may be re-victimized by the agents they turn to for help. The Toronto Police Service wants to send a strong message that this is not the case and that incidents are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.
A 2006 Statistics Canada report found young people are more likely to be both accused of hate crime and victims of hate crime. The report also found that half of the hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were violent, higher than those based on religion, race or ethnicity.
An online survey conducted by Egale Canada, a national organization that promotes equality for the LGBTQ community, backs up this data. Of the LGBTQ youth who participated in their school survey this year:
- two-thirds felt unsafe at school,
- over half reported verbal harassment,
- over a quarter were physically harassed,
- nearly half had been sexually harassed,
- those harassed much less likely to report to school staff.
The Toronto Police Service LGBT Community Consultative Committee spearheaded the initiative, which now includes 21 partnering agencies.
The campaign has a traditional advertising component, complete with billboards and multimedia, but also has lesson plans catered to middle and secondary schools as well as adult education classrooms.
With messages of Prove them wrong, Fight Hate Crime with Courage or Take back your school from Hate Crimes, the campaign is designed to empower young people, who have been found to experience a profound level of harassment, despite changing attitudes in society.
High school students from the Oasis Alternative School Triangle program shared stories of homophobia they have been exposed to and how it affected them, with students designing the campaign, to give them inspiration for their designs and understanding of the problem of homophobia. The Triangle program aims to provide a safe atmosphere for LGBTQ students, free from bullying and violence.
“I came from a school where no one else was gay,” said a student. “There was a lot of homophobia in school. Every day you go to a place where you’re not accepted.”
He now cares about his education because he’s in a place where he’s accepted.
Staff Superintendent Jeff McGuire said the Service is committed to the strategy and glad to be at the table with the LGBTQ community, despite a controversial past.
“Bullying and problems in schools affect the LGBTQ community as well. We want to make a difference,” said McGuire.