A gay man has a spinal cord injury, fractured eye socket and broken nose after being targeted in a homophobic hate crime.
Content warning: This story may include topics that could make some readers feel uncomfortable.
The attack took place just off the pier of a city park in San Diego, California at around 9:30pm on 12 September.
Gersson Saavedra remembers very little about his ordeal and remains in the hospital as he recovers from his injuries.
“I was at the pier over by Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan,” Saavedra told NBC San Diego. “When we were leaving the event I fell behind my friends, Martin and Sunny.”
Saavedra’s friends are helping him piece together what happened on the night of the attack.
He continued: “My friend said that these two guys asked me for a lighter.
“By the time they like turned around, I was getting, you know, punched.
“I was basically hitting the floor at that point.”
Homophobic slurs such as f****t were shouted at the victim during the incident before the two culprits fled the scene.
“First thing I remember when I woke on the hospital bed is that one of the doctors asked me if I was gay,” Saavedra added.
“I was like, that’s such a weird question to ask, but I said of course. And he was like, ‘Okay, you were a victim of a hate crime.’”
California’s Attorney General’s Office states that there has been an increase in hate crimes in the last year, with a rise of 31% overall and 15% of those involving sexual orientation.
“You hear about these things like happening in the gay community, but you know, you can never kind of prepare or expect something like this to happen to you,” the victim explained.
The impact of Saavedra’s attack will be felt by him for some time, with nose surgery scheduled for next week and doctors confirming that he will be unable to work for a minimum of six weeks.
“It’s easy to kind of blame yourself, think [you] could have prevented this, maybe by being less of yourself, but I would definitely say don’t let anyone or even this type of situation dim your light,” Saavedra explains to those who have also experienced a hate crime. “Always, you know, just be yourself.”
To pay for his hospital bills, his family has started a GoFundMe page which can be found here.
Authorities continue to investigate the incident and those with information can contact the police department here.
Galop is an LGBTQ+ charity there for those who have experienced abuse or have been the victim of a hate crime. They can be contacted Monday to Friday from 10am-4pm on 0207 7042040 or at HateCrime@galop.org.uk. You can find out more about them here.