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Speaking up to combat abuse
WHEN Andy Law lived in Oxford, teenagers would stand outside his house and shout abuse.
When he walked down the street, neighbours would shout insults at him.
And the only reason was because the 50-year-old had severe learning difficulties that made him stand out.
Now a campaign from a leading Oxfordshire charity aims to stop this kind of ignorance and abuse.
Mr Law, who now lives near Abingdon with his carers, said: “I have had this my whole life. A couple of times I felt like committing suicide.
“And I got so angry at one man that I punched him. You still get abuse from teenagers wherever you go, but hopefully this campaign will help that.”
My Life My Choice, based at the Jam Factory, Oxford, has launched the Hate Crime Campaign, which aims to stop bullying for good.
National statistics from mental health charity Mencap show more than 90 per cent of people with learning disabilities have experienced hate crime.
One in three of those experience it on a weekly basis.
Mr Law, who works as a champion for the charity and visited Westminster to launch the campaign on Monday, said: “When people see someone different to how they are, they don’t like it.
“So we are speaking out about it. I’m not speaking up just for myself, I’m speaking up for those people who cannot speak up.”
My Life My Choice has 450 members in the county.
Its campaign is supported by Oxfam, Oxford City Council and the Oxfordshire Community Foundation and tells people to “Speak Up, Speak Easily and Speak Out”.
The focus is on making sure people with learning difficulties know bullying does not have to be part of their lives.
It will also raise greater awareness with Thames Valley Police and the public of the impact this type of hate crime has on people.
Members of My Life My Choice will also serve on a police independent advisory group to deal with hate crime in the county.
Charity champions co-ordinator Dan Harris said: “Talking to a lot of our members, we know the impact bullying can have on a person’s confidence and outlook on life. They start to see it as just another part of their lives and they shouldn’t have to accept it.
“The cause of this issue is ignorance. People need to understand why people with learning difficulties act in a certain way. And how their words can impact.”
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