"I first remember being bullied at my first primary school when I was about 6 years old. Nobody wanted to play with me - the boys all played together and would ignore me and the girls would play together and tell me to go away, I remember being called stupid and feeling very alone, and then the bullying became worse and I was physically attacked most days, mainly by the boys.
From the moment I started secondary school, I was made to feel bad about myself. Pupils that I'd never met before would come up to me and tell me that they hated me and they would physically attack me. Most of these pupils were older than me so I was very frightened. I used to hide in the resource centre at lunch times but they would come and find me and bully me.
Everyone called me gay but I didn't feel that I was gay. I now know that I am transgender but I had no way of knowing this when I was young so it was all very confusing and stressful. This led to me feeling suicidal and I started to self harm as a release from the pain of being so isolated and hated I was brutally assaulted just after my 14th birthday. It was a complete shock as I was sitting down and someone came up behind me and started punching the back of my head until I fell on the ground and then they started kicking and punching me all over my body.
The police took the assault very seriously and I had to go to court to give evidence which was nerve-wracking. I felt that I was very well supported by SARI and the police hate crime team during the 8 months leading up to the court case and I doubt I could have given evidence if it weren't for their support. I wish I had contacted these organisations before the assault as I feel that all bullying is a criminal offence and that victims of bullying need this kind of support when they are going through hell at school."
On 29th September 2013, a Sikh taxi driver was viciously assaulted when he asked five female passengers to exit his taxi after it was revealed that they did not have sufficient funds to pay for the £105 journey from Hartcliffe, Bristol to Swindon in advance. He was both physically and verbally abused, called 'Bin Laden' and told to 'get out of this country'. The attack culminated in the turban being torn from his head and set on fire in front of him, Police only decided to caution one of the perpetrators responsible - the one who had burnt his turban - while the others went unpunished. SARI offered continuing emotional support, and has liaised with the police, the CPS and the Sikh community to address outstanding concerns about the attack. SARI and the Sikh community jointly fought for a revised sentence, and with the support of the Avon and Somerset Police and the CPS the key offender had her caution rescinded and was charged with racially aggravated criminal damage, to which she plead guilty.
Bijan, aged 44, had suffered racial harassment and anti-social behaviour for many years, in both Brislington and at his previous address in South Bristol; unfortunately, he had been housed in areas where hate crime is prevalent. SARI had worked with Bijan in the past to resolve issues, but had not been supporting him since 2011, when he had last turned to us. On 13th July 2013, Bijan was brutally beaten to death before being set alight by his neighbour, Lee James. Another neighbour, Stephen Norley, aided James in this vicious attack. James has since been jailed for life, and Norley is serving a 4 year prison sentence.
Leading up to his murder, Bijan had contacted the police and council on numerous occasions for support, and yet it was Bijan who was arrested for an allegedly breaching the peace. Tragically, Bijan was released back to Capgrave Crescent on July 12—just one day before he would be murdered.
The horrific nature of the crime made national news. It also prompted an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as well as a review by Bristol City Council into how Bijan's case was handled.
SARI was approached by Bijan's family in the aftermath of the attack; we began advocating on their behalf, supporting them in their search for justice and attempting to enable them to come to terms with such an inconceivable act of hatred that led to irretrievable loss. It was important to them that everything possible was learnt from Bijan's death, so that such atrocious acts of violence and hate are prevented in the future.
Huge changes have since been made, both in local policing and council approaches to people vulnerable to hate crime. 18 staff members of Avon and Somerset Constabulary were scrutinised, and ultimately 2 were convicted of misconduct. We have helped the police to create a dedicated action plan for vulnerable victims of hate crime including specialist training and innovative approaches to case reviews.
This black Caribbean client received hate mail through her door on numerous occasions; at first she dismissed them, but as they became more frequent, more violent, and began to reference her children, she became afraid for the safety of her family. The client felt so threatened by this ongoing behaviour that she felt she had no choice but to uproot her life and move her home. While we do not condone simply moving away (as not only does the perpetrator go unpunished, it makes them feel as if they have succeeded), this situation had become unbearable for the client.
We offered ongoing emotional support to the client through this traumatic period, and liaised with the housing association in order to secure a swift move to a property that was right for her and her children. We are still in touch with the client; she has since settled and the family are continuing with their lives. They are happy, but find it difficult to forget what has happened.