20 years of challenging hate #5 How I came to be a Trustee at Stop Hate UK by Graham Lewis

Hi,

I’m Graham and I have been a Trustee of Stop Hate UK since February 2014. My interest in hate crime, helplines and third party reporting systems directly relates to my personal experiences and knowledge of hate crime.

My first experience of hate crime was in 1996 when a brick was thrown through the window of a local gay pub whilst a group of friends and I were sitting having a drink.

My second experience was in 1999 when I was walking home from a different gay pub. As I was walking home on the Saturday night I was physically attacked and called poof and queer. I had a bloodied nose and black eye. I got home, bathed my wounds and went to bed. Shocked and horrified that this had happened. The next morning I phoned my best mate, who lived in London, he rushed up to Cambridge to see me and support me.   He encouraged me to report it to the police. At the police station I was treated respectfully. After reporting this to the police we went to the pub for lunch. On walking in, people were concerned about my beaten up state. When it was explained what had happened, the rumour circuit went into overdrive. People I didn’t know knew what had happened to me and became nervous for their own safety. Rumours had it that I had been close to death and that I had been cruising – both so not true and very far removed from the truth it was laughable.   My attacker was never found.

Following this I have had a range of professional experiences. My career has always been in the area of supporting people to have the right information to develop and grow to their full potential or to overcome events that are acting as barriers to moving forward with life, but it would be no surprise to me that these personal experiences have subconsciously reinforced my career goals and involvement in hate crime reporting projects.

In 2001 I started to work for a local HIV support and sexual health charity as a gay men’s health worker. Part of my duties included looking at all aspects of gay men’s health, not just their sexual health. We understood that issues in one part of life affected other parts. As part of this I worked with Cambridgeshire Police to encourage LGBT organisations to become third party reporting centres, train the staff and volunteers in these venues and promote the venues to the LGBT community.

In 2004 I joined Victim Support, managing their national helpline. Victim Support asked me to participate in a Home Office project group – the Racist Incident Group – which implemented recommendations from the Macpherson Report. I was asked to lead a working group which funded and supported a pilot helpline third party reporting project. It was this project which grew into the Stop Hate UK that we know today. Whilst at Victim Support I participated in hate crime research, delivered hate crime training to staff and volunteers and most importantly supported victims of hate crime.

When I left Victim Support I phoned Rose (CEO of Stop Hate UK,) who I had always had a good relationship with, to discuss my future career. My knowledge of hate crime, third party reporting systems, helplines and volunteer management were snapped up by the Board! Since joining the Board I have supported Stop Hate UK at meetings of the Victim Services Alliance (a group that brings together a wide range of charities and groups supporting victims of crime) and with the funder of the LGB& T stop hate line the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

My involvement in third party reporting systems does not stop with Stop Hate UK! I now work for a small disability rights charity in Cambridgeshire, where the issue of hate crime against people with disabilities has been identified as an area of concern. As part of my work I have been working with Cambridgeshire Police to raise awareness of the understanding of hate crime and its impact through a new third party reporting project.

In recent times it has been accepted in the media to talk negatively about immigrants, people’s faiths, people with disabilities and LGBT people and their contribution to society. I firmly believe that this has led to an increase in hate incidents and crimes.

Because of this I believe that the work of Stop Hate UK is more important than ever.

Andrew Bolland, Partnerships and Contracts Manager at Stop Hate UK, comments “As a charity Stop Hate UK really value the contribution that Trustees make to the organisation’s work. We have trustees who live across the UK, busy people who offer their time, knowledge and experience at no cost as they recognise the importance of the charity’s work. Trustees like Graham do much more than oversee the governance of the organisation; they can regularly be found offering advice and supporting the management and staff team to develop the services we offer to victims of Hate Crime. Without their contribution Stop Hate UK would not be the able to deliver the range of high quality and innovative services we provide today….on behalf of the staff at Stop Hate UK and our service users…thank you Graham and all the trustees for your on-going contribution to our work!”

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