Two students of the University were the victims of a homophobic attack whilst returning home from a night out last Saturday.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning at around 2am whilst the two young men were sitting on Hythe Bridge Street. A group of three males approached the pair and made derogatory statements about their appearance and delivered homophobic insults – addressing them numerous times as “fags”.
The men, who are not thought to be local, were said to be speaking initially in Italian, and did not expect either of the students to understand what they were saying.
However, one of the students is a linguist and thus understood the slur. When one of the students objected to the insults, he was punched in the face by one of the men.
The student’s friend then tried to intervene, but was himself physically assaulted, before the other victim was punched in the face again. The undergraduate from Wadham recounted: “After I took offence at the use of homophobic language, I was punched twice on the right side of my jaw, and when my friend tried to step in, he too was subject to further homophobic slurs, and hit.”
The group of men then moved away whilst the two students alerted the nearby police who were quick to stop their attackers. Two of the men were arrested – one of which admitted hitting someone, but denied using homophobic language; the other denied everything. The attackers have been bailed until June. One of the victims commented: “Luckily we are OK but both [of us] have been in quite a bit of pain.”
Thames Valley Police did not respond to a request for comment, but the victims praised the force for having been “amazingly helpful and considerate in their response and aid to us”.
Ashley Francis-Roy, President of the Oxford University LGBTQ Society, commented: “Many people who are involved in homophobic- or transphobic- related offences choose not to report it [...] It is important, though, that every instance of homophobic crime is challenged to ensure that attitudes in society change and that people know homophobia and transphobia are unacceptable. The society is also here to give advice and support, so do get in touch with us.”
This is not the first time that such an incident such as this has been reported as happening in the same area. The second victim, who studies at St Hugh’s College, disclosed that he had previously been subjected to this type of abuse. Around a month ago during the vacation, a similar confrontation occurred when he was punched in the face by a local man near to the club ‘Bridge’ on his way home from a night out.
Jamie Jackson, a member of the St John’s LGBTQ community commented: “It is sometimes easy to think that Oxford is encased in a liberal bubble removed from the homophobia present in the ‘outside’ world. Shocking incidents like this serve as a reminder that this is sadly not the case and that there is still much to be done.”