Late-night attack brings anti-gay violence to local scrutiny
When Aaron Hampton walked into the 241 Pizza on Albert Street on Oct. 16, he was expecting some late night pizza, not a violent assault.
“We were having such a great night. We were all so happy and it came out of nowhere,” said Hampton. “It was pretty extreme.”
According to Hampton’s Facebook page dedicated to the incident, he was called a “[Fucking] Faggot” by three men upon his entry to the pizza place, which he believes was a reaction to the nail polish he was wearing. One of the women in his party defended him, only to get violently attacked herself. Then Hampton put himself between the woman and the attackers, and was brutally assaulted.
“I was in shock when it was happening. I was completely stunned that they were that vicious without being provoked,” said Hampton. “I’ve been verbally assaulted for wearing nail polish. I’ve never actually been physically assaulted. It was pretty crazy to see it firsthand like that.”'
The men left the scene before the police showed up, but the victims were able to take down a partial plate number, on top of knowing the make and model of their attackers’ vehicle. The owner of 241 Pizza also turned over a surveillance tape to the police, but charges have yet to be made.
“I wanted [the three men] to be caught,” said Hampton. “I thought Facebook was good because friends could share it around, and sooner or later someone will know them.
“I wanted to catch them and also, I wanted to expose them. I wanted people to know what they had done. I didn’t just want them to get charged.”
He created the Facebook group in hopes of discovering the identities of his attackers, but also to raise awareness of an issue that doesn’t get talked about much.
“Violence comes in so many forms. It can be anywhere from verbal abuse to physical abuse,” explained UR Pride Board member Dan Shier. “Physical abuse often goes unreported. People are embarrassed or scared of the ramifications that might occur from reporting an incident.”
“I want people to know it that it happened. It happens a lot actually,” stated Hampton. “There have been two other incidents last week being reported. It happens a lot and it’s a serious issue.”
Hampton’s experience is rare only in the sense he has chosen to publicize it instead of shy away. Otherwise, Hampton and Shier both agree that it happens more often than people think.
“It’s very hard to show that it’s cool not to be hetero-normative,” said Shier, who believes education is the only way to reform views on homosexuality and prevent hate crimes from occurring. “The older community is something that needs education, but youth is something to focus on.”
Shier and Hampton both believe that awareness is important in ending hate crimes against the gay community.
“It’s horrific to happen to anybody regardless of their identity,” said Shier. “Violence is unacceptable.”
Hampton, on the other side, can take away a few things from this ordeal.
“On one side, there’s been lots of support and a lot of people,” Hampton said. “At the same time, if I’m out around aggressive looking guys, I may put my hands in my pocket to hide my nail polish.”
“UR Pride is also available for a safe place on campus to get support from peers,” advocated Shier, urging those who have experienced violence of any sort, either firsthand or otherwise, to seek help.