Five Lesbians Viciously Beaten by 15 Men, Say Portsmouth Police Let Attackers Ride Off in Taxis

After a fun Sunday night drinking and doing karaoke at the Blue Anchor Pub in Porstmouth, Hampshire, a group of eight women were heading home, singing “I’m in the Mood for Dancing,” when a group of men outside the S2 Club took immediate interest in their existence. The men began hurling homophobic abuse in their direction. And then, almost immediately, the verbal abuse turned into a physical attack.

The victims were 23, 24, 25, 27 and 32. By request, their names have not been given to the press.

The men kicked and punched and stomped on and at the women. One was punched in the face, leading her to lose seven teeth and gain a broken jaw. Another woman was pummelled in the chest, leaving bruises. Two got black eyes. Another has a bruised kidney and liver as well as a dislocated knee and shoulder. One woman told BBC South, “They were just punching me, kicking me, pulling my hair, grabbing me inappropriately and calling me a dirty dyke.”

The men hurled one woman against the shutters of a nearby shop after punching her repeatedly, and she recalls, “‘I just remember trying to protect myself. They were trying to get me on the floor. There was blood everywhere.”

A victim’s sister told The Portsmouth News, “‘The men had got off the girls but they were still hitting the older woman, I’d say at least 20 or 30 times. I was begging them to stop. It wasn’t until they heard the sirens that they threw her and ran off. They dropped her like she was nothing and ran back into the club. I turned around and one was stamping on a woman’s head. Another girl was fitting on the floor. It was horrendous, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve had nightmares.”

It’s unclear how many men were involved. Most headlines and stories, including Logo, Pink News and The News, cite “a  gang of 15 men” responsible for the attack, but the BBC has written that the victims “say they were set upon by seven men who shouted homophobic abuse before kicking and punching them.” Other reports say 20-30 men were involved.

In a statement to the press, the women reported being emotionally and physically scarred from the event: “All involved have been left with injuries and many left emotionally scared. We are angered but overall we are fiercely upset. Innocent women trying to get home to their families should not be disgustingly attacked due to being homosexual.” Simply being visibly gay was enough to make these women the victim of violent homophobia.

The Hampshire police said they are “investigating an altercation between two groups at about 11.25 PM on April 16th.” Three men in their mid-twenties, from London, were arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. A Portsmouth 27-year-old was arrested on suspicion of affray. They remain under investigation at this point but have all been released. Facebook commenters on the BBC South’s interview with victims, as well as commenters on other news posts about the crime, seem preoccupied with an allegation that the men involved were Polish.

According to the BBC, the Hampshire Constabulary “has appealed for witnesses to come forward,” but the Constabulary’s website reveals no such appeal currently posted. According to LGBTQ Nation, victims have been in touch with the Police’s Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officer.

BBC News South reports that the victims and their friends have been disheartened by police response to the incident, telling them: “I don’t think they handled it well at all. We was telling the police who assaulted people and they let ’em go in taxis. No other witnesses got called to give statements. There was 20-30 men involved – I don’t understand how only four has been arrested.”

Another victim recalled: “They’ve handled it completely wrong, they didn’t even come over and check if we were OK. There was no photos taken of the injuries. I’ve been groped and grabbed as well as the other girls. We should have had a female officer there.”

A statement of response from the Hampshire police declares: “We have explained our complaints procedure to the victims as they have indicated they are unhappy with the response they have received. If a formal complaint is made we will investigate thoroughly.” The police told the BBC that “homophobic crimes are treated with the upmost seriousness” and that “several lines of inquiry are ongoing.”

The victims took pictures of their own injuries. I have not included said photos, but you can see them here.

The crime happened in public, with multiple witnesses, and police arrived on the scene within ten minutes… yet, somehow, nobody has been charged with a crime.

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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25 Comments

  1. This is fucking sickening, as are many of the comments on the linked posts and articles.

    I have a friend who moved away from Portsmouth back to NZ a year or so ago, in part because of the callousness and insularity of the locals towards her as a foreigner, and from the rampant racism and xenophobia in those comments I can certainly see why.

  2. Portsmouth is the city I grew up in. I’ve never been worried about visiting home and I’ve never felt unsafe there because of my sexuality. I guess that’s going to change now though. Hopefully the sick fucks that did this get caught and locked away.

  3. I’ve never truly truly been afraid to be gay in Britain, yes sometimes in certain areas I won’t hold my girlfriends hand because we don’t want to get shouted at but this, I didn’t think it happened here anymore.

  4. I’ve never truly truly been afraid to be gay in Britain, yes sometimes in certain areas I won’t hold my girlfriends hand because we don’t want to get shouted at but this, I deidn’t think it happened here anymore.

  5. “The crime happened in public, with multiple witnesses, and police arrived on the scene within ten minutes… yet, somehow, nobody has been charged with a crime.”

    i hope the public generates enough noise that police actually feel a modicum of shame, i won’t hold my breath, but i hope the actually start doing their jobs. i shudder at the thought of trans people there, you know they must have it even worse.

    so much has changed and yet not much at all

    • I will stop “exaggerating” and stop being “man-hating dyke” when men and certain special women stop referring to queer women as man-hating walls built to prevent the sea or a river from covering an area, or a channel dug to take water away from an area.

      This just rubs me the wrong way, because my so called friend told me this not too long ago -_-

    • Agree again. I am a mother of two sons which always makes this harder to say but overall, I am not a fan of men. I have met very few “good ones”. I hope that my boys will be a woman loving, proper part of society. I am trying to raise them as such.

  6. Thanks for reporting on this in detail. When I first saw this in the news I was unusually shocked, partly because Portsmouth’s not so far from me, and also because the photos of the injuries really show how horrific the attack was.

    I think this is a timely reminder to anyone who thinks legalising marriage somehow cured the country of homophobia.

  7. Wow this is horrible. I hope the victims get well soon and some sort of justice happens against the scumbags who did it and the scumbag police.
    I swear this world is going backwards rather than forwards these days. I honestly didn’t think this country was as homophobic as that. Racist against poc and xenophobic (I need a stronger word here) against eastern Europeans yes but I didn’t realise what Abigail problem we have with homophobia that something like this would be allowed to happen (that’s what the police are doing btw allowing it to happen). Just goes to show this kind of scummy stuff happens all over so we need to be vigilant against it & fight against it.
    Seriously I’ll never understand why someone would beat someone up just cos they’re lgbt.

  8. Eugh this made me SO MAD when I saw it yesterday on the BBC. Britain is supposed to be this “tolerant” country but the rise of homophobic/xenophobic/Islamophobic/racist incidents really shows otherwise.

    I hope the women recover physically and psychologically, my thoughts are with them. Thanks for bringing this to an international audience Riese.

  9. Yet another example of the consequences of all our cowardly and duplicitous politicians stirring hatred in order to divide communities and maintain the ascendancy of neoliberal power.

    This,like all similar assaults and murders is appalling.

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