A retail worker from Enniskillen has said he will never go out in his home town again after he became the victim of a vicious homophobic attack that has left him covered in cuts and bruises.
Dean Wheeler (23) told the Belfast Telegraph that he was walking home from a night out in the early hours of Sunday, April 8, when an unknown man shoved him to the ground and kicked him in the ribs and head.
“I was going out to the shop when I heard ‘queer boy’ being shouted at me,” he said. “I just ignored it and went to get a taxi. I was told it would be over an hour and I live 15 minutes away so I thought I’d just walk.
“After that, I heard ‘faggot’ being shouted and the next thing I know I was shoved to the ground and kicked in the ribs and head while they called me an ‘HIV ridden bastard’, and all this.”
Dean remembers very little of the attack and didn’t see the face of the man who attacked him. The last thing he remembers is a passer-by intervening.
“Another man came out of nowhere and just ripped him off me. The next thing I remember was waking up at home the next morning,” he said.
“I’ll never go out in this town again, never. If that man hadn’t have helped, God knows how far it would have gone.”
He continued: “My family, friends and work colleagues are raging about it, disgusted this could happen in this day and age.”
Addressing his attacker directly he said: “How do you live with yourself?”
Dean came out to his family and friends two years ago who have been very supportive, despite this he has been the victim was subject to cyberbullying.
“My family and friends have always known, to be honest,” he said.
“Most people in the town were all fine but I got people making fake accounts on Facebook and telling me I’m going to die from HIV and things like that. I pass these people off because I don’t care about their opinion, but it’s different when somebody actually hit me because I’m gay.”
Aisling Twomey, of the Rainbow Project, provides support to victims of hate crimes.
“Hate crime robs people of their confidence, their independence,” she said. “Under-reporting remains a key issue in tackling anti LGB&T hate crime in Northern Ireland.”
Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew has condemned the attack
“I am saddened by the news that a young man was attacked late on Sunday in a homophobic hate crime. This is totally unacceptable and I condemn it outright,” said the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA.
“It’s a very sad reality that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes continue to be committed in our society. Sinn Féin encourages people to report any such incidents to the PSNI.
“There can be no tolerance of homophobic, transphobic or other hate crimes and victims should feel confident that when they contact police that their concerns will be taken seriously and responded to appropriately.”
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