News

Three Gay Men Survive Terrifying Ordeal on St. Lucia

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Mar 9, 2011

Three gay men--a male couple and a friend--were subjected to a terrifying beating and robbery while on the island of St. Lucia, according to an account that one of the men posted at Facebook, GLBT news site Queerty reported on March 7.

The account by Michael Baker related how Baker and his partner Nick Smith, from Atlanta, Georgia, traveled to the Caribbean island St. Lucia for a vacation, only to be subjected to an assault by a gang of mask-wearing, armed men who broke into their cottage, robbed them, and threatened to kill them if they were gay. The men had joined their friend Todd Wiggins, who is from South Carolina.

"The attack was more than a simple robbery," wrote Baker, who said that he was documenting the assault both to provide details for concerned friends and as a means of therapeutic release.

Wiggins had rented the cottage on previous occasions. The couple joined Wiggins at the cottage during their stay on St. Lucia. On the evening of March 2, as Todd was preparing dinner, Baker and Smith showered together following a dip in a swimming pool. The men had been on a snorkeling excursion earlier in the day.

Suddenly the couple heard their friend screaming from the kitchen. Wiggins cried out for Baker and Smith to stay in the bathroom, but Baker, thinking that an insect or pest might have frightened Wiggins, looked out the bathroom door--only to see a masked man with a gun staring back at him.

Baker attempted to shut the man out of the bathroom, but a second man joined him in trying to force the door open. Then a third man entered the bathroom, which was open to the sky. The man aimed his gun at Baker and ordered him to "Get the fuck down!" Baker complied and the other two men entered the bathroom.

Baker described being viciously beaten, and said that he could hear Wiggins being assaulted as well. Baker attempted to position himself between Smith and the assailants, in an effort to protect his partner, but the attackers kicked Smith in the face and the stomach.

The assailants demanded to know whether the men were gay, hurling anti-gay epithets at them and telling them that they would murder them if they were "faggots." The men said that they were not gay, and that they had shared the shower only because the hot water supply was very limited. The attackers then robbed and tied the men, and left them in the shower, which was still running.

Wiggins related the attack from his own perspective, writing about it on his travel blog, reported Project Q Atlanta on March 7.

"They were naked and lying face down on the floor," Wiggins said, describing the scene that greeted him when he was taken into the bathroom where his friends were being held. "Michael was bleeding. Their feet were bound, and their hands were tied behind their backs. One of the men picked up one of my running shoes and held it next to my face and pointed at it. I could see a grin in his partially concealed expression.

"This was the second time that I felt I was being recognized or that this person must know me," Wiggins wrote.

"The violent man began questioning Michael and Nick," Wiggins continued. " 'Are you gay? Why were you naked together in the shower? I hate fucking faggots. It makes me so angry, I should kill you. Fucking faggots!' We denied the accusation. No, we're not gay. No, no, we're not gay."

The Project Q Atlanta article noted that Wiggins' partner, Tom Richland, was not present because he was in Seattle on business at the time.

Baker described how the three men escaped their bonds and fled the house once the attackers left the bathroom. They made their way down a steep slope through a rainforest and then down a gravel road in their bare feet. They sought help from tourists at other cottages; a woman at the first cottage they tried to slam the door in their faces, but her husband took the three men to a neighboring cottage, where a man named Bruno and his wife tried to be of some assistance. When a married couple who were friends of Wiggins' arrived home to their own cottage, the men took refuge with them.

Baker and Smith flew home the following day. Wiggins followed the day after that.

"I don't know the full motivation that drove these five men, but I do know that I can feel pity for them," Baker wrote. "As Todd said, how horrible that this was the only option that they felt. I do think it was partly a gay-bashing.

"I have so much shame for denying who I was, but I did not feel I could endanger my friend and boyfriend by admitting who I was," added Baker. "I wish I could have fought back more, but we were so over powered. I know that we will all struggle with this for a long time, possibly our whole lives."

Baker also wrote, "I'm apparently going through something called post-concussion syndrome which makes me tired and irritable," but added a note of humor: "Yes, I know... How will we ever know when I'm better?"

Baker is the head of a HIV organization, noted Towelroad in a March 6 article. Project Q Atlanta noted that the group Baker heads is called Positive Impact.

Wiggins wrote that arrests were made in connection with the case, but that the four men authorities had detained were released.

Project Q Atlanta cited a 2008 U.S. State Department report that noted a general climate of violence against women, children, and GLBTs on the island. The report also noted deficiencies in the island's criminal justice system.

"There was widespread social discrimination against homosexuals in the deeply conservative, highly religious society," the report said. "There were few openly gay people in the country. There were at least two cases of violence against homosexuals, including one young man who was killed when he was hung from a tree because he was openly gay."

St. Lucia was under British rule intermittently from 1663. In 1814, the British established enduring control over the island, imposing its penal code. St. Lucia became independent in 1979, but retains British Common Law, which criminalizes gays.

In many instances, former British colonies have kept anti-gay laws on the books, and anti-gay attitudes have persisted in the culture. A document from the Human Rights Watch, a 66-page publication called "This Alien Legacy," recounts the damage done to societies colonized by the British, who left behind a legacy of anti-gay laws.

"This 66-page report describes how laws in over three dozen countries, from India to Uganda and from Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860," reads text at the Human Rights Watch site.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • kojong, 2011-03-09 08:53:48

    Will never visit this place!


  • , 2011-03-09 08:57:55

    I have created a petition on change.org to email the government of St. Lucia to let them know that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated. Search for "stop anti-gay violence in St. Lucia" on www.change.org and sign and share the petition. This attack seems particularly heinous and must be stood up to!


  • , 2011-03-09 10:53:26

    Not sure why horrific experience for the guys involved has turned into an anti-British tirade. The laws of the British Empire were anti-gay, as were the laws and social attitudes in many other countries at the time, including the USA. Britain has since moved on in terms of legislation and social attitudes. It’s time many African and Carribean nations did exactly the same thing! Blaming your parents for your own bad behaviour doesn’t wash once you’ve grown up and left home.


  • , 2011-03-09 21:58:00

    Random attacks on gay people still happen in many countries; even ones with equality laws on the books. A few years back I was vacationing in Cape Town South Africa feeling that the laws in the constitution protecting gay people made it a more welcoming place for me to visit. The same week I was there 6 gay men were murdered in a spa in de Waterkant, a area that was primarily gay. We are not there yet people.


  • , 2011-03-11 17:19:00

    The issue with the islands is that they are virulently anti-gay. Gays and lesbians should NOT go there. The same with South Africa, which once protected gay rights, now with recent UN votes, South African and many other African and Arab countries (and the islands) all voted NOT to protect gay rights. Though the US voted to support the amendment, those opposed to it were too numerous. Again, the gay community MUST boycott the islands, including Jamaica, Barbados, etc. It is the only thing we can do to get the local authorities to emprison bashers. These are hate crimes, obviously, especially when someone is asking you if you are gay!


  • , 2011-03-11 20:19:59

    My friend and I were down in St. Lucia and had the strong feeling that we were not welcome. we decided that the best thing to do was to stay away from any place that has even one report of anti-gay action. I applaud all three men for staying alive: you can share your love for each other in places that welcome you.


  • , 2011-03-12 07:49:39

    yet again this pathetic, violent little banana republic trying to cut off the hand that feeds it, ie Tourism, I am so glad that this has received the bad publicity it deserves... too many murders on this once beautiful Island... the police will do nothing as there is nothing in it for them.


  • , 2011-03-12 07:54:48

    You only have to read their local online newspaper to see how ugly their country is becoming - nearly 50 murders last year alone and up to almost 20 this year so far. These people have no self respect let alone for visitors. What two people do behind closed doors is their own business. just shows it takes 5 retarded idiots with guns to terrify 3 defenceless unarmed guys. All Americans should boycott this Island - once they have realised they should be accepting of peoples beliefs then they will start to grow up.


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