Hate Crime Awareness Week 12th-19th October

In preparation for and to kick off: Hate Crime Awareness week, we have shared one person’s story. This is with the aim to highlight the impact that hate crime can have on a person. Many thanks to the brave person who was kind enough to share this with us:

My Child’s Story:

Most of my child’s time at secondary school was dominated by hate, to the point of them leaving the school in Year 10 after constant harassment, bullying, failed attempts at getting the school to do anything and my child suffering from self-harm, depression and suicidal thoughts. 

My child, who I’ll refer to as H, didn’t have a lot of friends as they moved up to secondary school, they were more likely to be involved in small groups of two or three. Those friends changed, but by the time H left, at Easter in Year 10, they didn’t have the support of a single student. They had spent every break and lunchtime for over two years in a teacher’s office, hiding from others, avoiding social contact and the chance of possible conflict and abuse. 

H was a confident child as they moved into Year 7, they sang and danced, starred in plays, which included lead roles. This confidence also meant they dressed a little different, had strong beliefs and they were a little warrior. I was proud, they would stand up for people, but this also meant they didn’t fit in. They weren’t a people pleaser just for the sake of it. 

In the summer holidays between Year 6 and 7 H developed a friendship with a girl at holiday club. They spent all of their time together, both during and after the holiday club sessions. H went on to tell me that they were gay, and I was pleased that they could be so open with me. I didn’t care at all, my child is my child no matter what. The friend went home down south after the holidays, but H and her kept in touch. 

My child was quite open about their sexuality, and I was proud that I’d raised a confident child, who believed in standing up for what they believed in. The other students weren’t so open minded. 

The first big incident was a series of silent phone calls which went on for about 3 weeks until I was present and managed to record the phone call. “Are you a dyke?” “You’re a lesbian!” “Have you a cock?” interspersed by giggling between the two girls on the other end of the phone. The girl who spoke most had a distinctive accent and I was able to take this recording into school. There was a suspect, and their form tutor made a statement that there had been a serious incident and the police would be involved if no one owned up. Later that day, the suspect and her friend went to the college leader in tears and confessed. I’d already involved the police to try and get to the bottom of it, they visited the girls and their parents, and I subsequently received phone calls from the parents stating that it must be the other girl as their own child wouldn’t do such a thing. They were horrified at the language used in the phone calls. The school didn’t take any action as the police had dealt with it, so H had to see those students every day knowing that nothing had been done.

There was general unrest at school, but nothing major. H got some hassle now and again, but was strong enough to fend it off, although they were spending more time in the teacher’s office as they were starting to avoid the other students. H made friends in the office with other students who would pop in. There just seemed to be a problem with bitchy girls who would talk behind each other’s backs or childish boys who thought it was funny to shout ‘lesbian’ or ‘dyke’ at H. 

We sought help from the predecessor to Darlington ARQ who arranged meetings including a hate crime officer and a teacher from school. All the right things were said, but we soon realised that the school wasn’t taking it seriously. There was low level homophobic language used all around school, sometimes directed at H, but the students used it against each other in everyday language. I discovered that H had started to self-harm and was becoming more isolated.

The next serious incident happened when H was followed home from school by boys shouting ‘faggot’. H came home in tears, not for the first time, and I contacted the police immediately. Following the initial meeting with the police to report the incident we didn’t hear anything for months, yet again I thought, nothing is going to be done, this is just to be accepted as kids messing around. After six months or so we got a phone call to say the officer had been on sick leave and a new officer would be following it up. Apparently, the school had traced one boy, but didn’t know if the other still attended the school. It had taken the police months to get information from the school and the boy’s contact details. I was asked if I wanted the investigation to continue, but this was about six months from the date of the incident, so I said there was no point.

The new officer was a hate crime officer who was amazingly supportive. He spent a lot of time with us and made us feel that we were getting help and that the issues in school were going to be taken seriously. He was enthusiastic, but the school were not. He contacted the school but had a lot of difficulty getting access to anyone. It just wasn’t seen as a big problem. ARQ was also trying to get into the school, they offered to help, to provide education, yet often the emails were either passed on or remained unanswered.

H was now getting more withdrawn and wouldn’t leave the house. They spent most of their time in their bedroom, sometimes begging me not to go to school. I believed one day off would lead to another, so I made them go. I thought that if they had support at home, they would be ok.

The next big step was when H told me they were non-binary. I didn’t know a lot about being non-binary, but it didn’t matter, they were still my child. I went into school to discuss this as H wanted to use ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns, change their name and live their life as a non-binary person. I had discussed with H what they wanted to do and how they wanted to change things. We agreed that if they were sure, that they would need to tell their father, so that they weren’t living two separate lives. H was dysphoric about their birth name and wanted to get away from being a girl, they told me they didn’t feel like a girl or a boy. 

We had a meeting at school about how to handle the transition. One teacher was fantastic and very supportive, but everything got diluted in the follow through. H would use the disabled toilet and they would also use a disabled toilet to change for PE. PE produced many problems, the language of teachers was upsetting to H in a segregated lesson, “Come along girls” or “Over here ladies”, which might not seem a big deal, but to someone who wasn’t female, this was uncomfortable and also humiliating as the other students would look at H when these things were said. H was getting more and more withdrawn so wouldn’t question the authority and felt very self-conscious. 

H had their new name as their chosen name on registers, but this wasn’t updated on the school system, so I would still receive messages using their deadname. When cover teachers stood in for lessons, they would us H’s deadname which was uncomfortable and embarrassing for H. This would lead to other students using the deadname, which was bad enough done by accident, but for other students to get a kick out of this was soul destroying for H. Particular students would ask H if they were a boy or a girl, “Oh you’re still a girl as you’ve got breasts”, “Have you got a cock?”, “There’s no such thing as non-binary, look at the science” or “You’re not H legally, so we’ll call you ‘deadname’”.

A few weeks after coming out as non-binary H was followed home from school by a group of boys asking awkward questions. H told them to leave them alone, but they continued. Someone else caught this on video, but the school’s policy regarding H’s new identity was to discuss it with students rather than to punish. The school believed they could educate the students, when in fact the students were making H’s life hell with no comeback.

H would receive insults daily, there would be words shouted in the corridor, sly comments or intimidating questions. They would also hear homophobic and transphobic language used around school, and as they had become so sensitive, they found this upsetting. Students would call each other gay, or faggot, and the school did the very minimum. It was as if teachers ignored this language for an easy life, it didn’t matter to them, but inside H was crumbling. The self-harm was continuing in many different forms and I’d found notes in H’s room that were extremely disturbing to me. They’d transformed from a proud confident person to a child who didn’t want to be here anymore.  When I had to leave the house, I would desperately wait for text replies from H just to know that they were ok. At home I felt helpless and my mental health was going downhill. I couldn’t make this go away and I couldn’t make it better for H, as a mother I should have been able to protect them against the world. I put on a brave front, but there were occasions when we would cry together. Some days H would come home from school, collapse on the floor and cry. Every day I would wonder what the abuse had been today and what I would come home to. I kept thinking school will do something, they couldn’t let this constant bullying continue, but every time I emailed, there was an excuse for a reply, H is twisting the story, H got it wrong, the person didn’t mean it like that, and I felt I was being an overprotective mother. The school continued to have the opinion that talking and explaining to the students was better than punishing them, so there was no deterrent. The students saw it as funny banter, yet to H it was happening in almost every lesson and throughout the day, over and over again. Death by a thousand cuts.

In March 2019 the final incident happened in registration. The form tutor had never been supportive, even referring to herself as a ‘tranny’ on a dress up day. On this morning a boy was being loud and using the word dyke. Another student told him he shouldn’t use that word. “Why not?” he asked, “H is allowed to use it”, although I have never heard them use that word. This unwanted attention in an unruly form class was the last straw, H collapsed on the desk in tears. They were escorted from the class and never went to another lesson. The reaction from the safeguarding lead was “Oh, it’s going to be another one of those days”. H was messaging me from the toilet, crying and hiding, desperate for me to collect them. I went straight into school and brought them home. 

The school arranged for H to go in on reduced hours, to avoid walking to school with the other students and would work in a separate room with a teacher. I had to get them out of there. I emailed a specialist school in town who deal with children who have problems in mainstream school, either health or mental health but they needed a referral letter. Our GP, who H had been seeing for over a year with depression wrote a letter, but the school couldn’t accept that, they wanted a referral from CAMHHs, which would take at least 6 months. H could not go through endless months at the old school, educated in isolation, bumping into students who wanted to know what was going on. Although H had been receiving counselling at Darlington ARQ who had been supporting us in many ways, the new school couldn’t accept a referral letter from them according to their guidelines. Following phone calls from the principal of the old school, the new school accepted ARQ’s recommendation and we have never looked back. Within two weeks H’s face was bright, the permanent look of sadness had gone. Of course, they were nervous about a new school as their confidence so low, and I was too, but we had made the right decision. One term at the new school and H was gaining confidence, starting to dress more extravagantly again, wearing make-up and colouring their hair. They started volunteering, something I had never dreamed of, and they were going out and meeting friends from the new school. 

There was an isolated incident at the new school, and the head teacher acted promptly, taking it very seriously. Both myself and H thought ‘here we go again’, and the feeling of dread came back. To our relief the new school reacted promptly with appropriate punishment and have made us feel safe, that they have zero tolerance to any abuse. This is how it should be.

I have spoken in public about our story and people are shocked that this could happen. Speaking about it is upsetting and I still can’t believe what we went through and had to accept as our normal life, but if think people need to know. The hate has to stop.

We can’t thank Darlington ARQ enough for their support in so many ways throughout this experience, counselling, peer support, support in meetings and countless correspondence. 

Bi Visibility Day – One Persons Story

As part of Bi-Visibility day 2019, which falls on 23 September, we have had the following submitted to us and they have very bravely asked us to share their story. Bi-Visibility Day has been marked each year since 1999 to highlight bi-phobia and to help people find the bisexual community. We would like to thank this brave person for agreeing to share their story with a view to highlighting the bi community and maybe even dispel some misconceptions:

My Bi Visibility Day Story

“So not everyone feels like this?” was the question I asked my workmate when she told me that ‘no, she didn’t find women attractive’. That was the moment, at around 40 years old, that I realised I liked both men and women in a way that most other people didn’t.

As Bi Visibility Day on the 23 rd of September approaches, I started to reflect on my own sexuality, only accepting the fact I am bisexual in the past 5 years or so. I always knew I was attracted to both men and women, but it didn’t occur to me that I was different to other women.

At secondary school I realised there was a girl I liked, she wasn’t the most well behaved, and I think I was attracted to her character as well as her physically. I obviously didn’t do anything about it, she was a good friend, but it didn’t occur to me that it was anything more than friends. There were women around I liked, I adored Madonna, I thought she was beautiful, I still do. I also had a thing about redheads, Molly Ringwold was around in films, and she set off a lifelong attraction to red haired women, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Christina Hendricks, oh wow!

I grew up in a very old fashioned family, it was expected that I would get married and have children, so I did. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, I had quite a sheltered life and was extremely shy, so just got on with what I thought I should do without drawing attention to myself. I had an aunt who lived with a woman under the guise of old university friends who had a business together. It was many years later that I found out they were indeed VERY good friends and had gone through a Civil Ceremony. I don’t think my family ever knew and I used to think it was sad that they never spent the Christmas holidays together as they visited their respective families.

After my divorce, I thought “this is the time”, I wanted to explore. I joined a dating site for gay women, as dating apps weren’t available at the time. I spoke to some women and met someone who I got on with amazingly. We saw each other for about three months, but I couldn’t get over the fact that we couldn’t show that we were together in public. She wasn’t into public displays of affection, but I was used to being able to hold hands and kiss in public, we couldn’t do either. I wasn’t ‘out’ at all, and the one friend who I told declared “BUT THAT’S NOT YOU!” But it was me! I split with this
fantastic woman as I couldn’t cope with hiding my sexuality and our relationship, and I was still too self-conscious to ‘come out’.

I went back to dating men, being ‘normal’, only to end up with a man who was violent. Following an awful divorce, I again looked at dating women. I was a little more ‘out’ by now. I’d spoken to a friend at work about how I liked both men and women and how I thought this was the same for everyone. Apparently not, she only liked men and had never thought of another woman in a way other than friends. This was actually a revelation to me, I realised I was bisexual, really bisexual!

I joined some lesbian dating apps and met a few women, as well as getting in touch with the woman I split with a few years earlier. She obviously didn’t trust me, but we kept in touch as friends. Other women I met weren’t for me, they got serious far too quickly. I now saw the compounded effect of two women’s emotions together. It was a new thing for me to be dealing with a woman’s feelings instead of a man’s. The stereotypes seemed to be true, women got emotionally involved quickly and were needy, whereas men were laid back. I met a couple of women who got quite obsessive quite quickly, I freaked and ran.

Of course, I went back to the safety of men. I still didn’t really know any gay women in real life, so I was back to dabbling with mainly men on dating apps, but also chatting to women. There are more men than gay women out there, so I inevitably ended up seeing men. I also found lesbians on the whole believed the stereotypes about bisexual women, we’re experimenting and will go back to men, we’re not committed, we’re really lesbians but ashamed and not ‘out’, or we’re promiscuous.

I saw a man for a few months who asked if this was a threat. “No, it’s not!” Another man asked which of my friends I wanted to sleep with. “None”!

Fast forward a year or two and I am now more involved with the LGBT+ community and I am almost completely ‘out’. I still haven’t met anyone, but very much open to it now. I’m more comfortable with my sexuality as I spend a lot of time in the community and finally feel it is ‘normal’, instead of feeling the odd one out in my straight circle of friends. I’m accepted by people I know and love that. I have wasted so much time hiding my sexuality, too shy to deal with it, but it has brought me to this point in life where I am now.

I’m sure there will be a few eyebrows raised when I meet a woman I feel strongly about enough to go public. I just want people to know I am still me, it doesn’t change me, it’s the whole me.

I am not greedy
I am not confused
I am not ‘easy’
This is not a threat to any current relationship
I am incredibly loyal to a partner

Darlington ARQ Open Morning

Saturday 31st August 2019, is both our 2nd birthday and our open morning following our recent move. We would be delighted if you could join us between 10am and 1pm.

Saturday 31st August 2019, is both our 2nd birthday and our open morning following our recent move. We would be delighted if you could join us between 10am and 1pm. Included in the morning will be:

  • Information Displays
  • Meet and Greet volunteer team
  • Find out about our services
  • Raffle & Tombola
  • Refreshments provided

Pop along and join us for the above and find out more about what we do, how to access our services and answer any questions you have.

If you would like to join us please let us know by emailing us on darlingtonarq@gmail.com or by calling us on 01325 788203 so we can make sure we have enough refreshments.

Congratulations Jo

Congratulations to our very own Jo, who has today successfully completed their 100 clinical training hours as part of her Counselling Degree. Onward and upwards Jo – well done! x

Congratulations to our very own Jo, who has today successfully completed their 100 clinical training hours as part of her Counselling Degree. Onward and upwards Jo – well done! x

Paint for a £1 was great fun!

Everyone had fun at our paint for a £1 event today, some pics follow. They even made a lovely LGBT+ effigy of our CEO! Is it a good likeness?

Everyone had fun at our paint for a £1 event today, some pics follow. They even made a lovely LGBT+ effigy of our CEO! Is it a good likeness?

We will be having another one soon.

Goodbye Bridget!

ARQ today says farewell to one of our counsellors, Bridget, who leaves us for pastures new. Bridget joined us almost two years ago as part of her Uni placement and has been with us since. Thank you for everything you have done Bridget and good luck for the future!

ARQ today says farewell to one of our counsellors, Bridget, who leaves us for pastures new. Bridget joined us almost two years ago as part of her Uni placement and has been with us since. Thank you for everything you have done Bridget and good luck for the future!


ARQ x