HATE ATTACK: Sean Rich, of Wollongbar, recovers in Lismore Base Hospital. He is pictured with friend Tully Rodwell, who rescued him during the attack in Ballina on Tuesday night.
HATE ATTACK: Sean Rich, of Wollongbar, recovers in Lismore Base Hospital. He is pictured with friend Tully Rodwell, who rescued him during the attack in Ballina on Tuesday night. Jacklyn Wagner

Wollongbar man bashed because he is gay

BASHING victim Sean Rich is no stranger to violence.

At the age of just 13 he was bashed by a gang in Brisbane, and two years ago he and his sister were with their father when he was bashed and stabbed in Brisbane.

On Tuesday night the violence became a recurring nightmare when the 20-year-old gay man, from Wollongbar, was attacked and thrown through a glass shop front in River Street, Ballina.

“It was a straight out hate crime,” Mr Rich said. “They were calling me a faggot.”

Mr Rich suffered a 12cm gash to his upper thigh, a 15cm wound across his upper arm, another deep gash to his left hand, a bruise in the shape of a thumb print on his neck, plus other cuts and abrasions.

A nurse caring for him at Lismore Base Hospital said the cut on his thigh was five centimetres from a major artery.

On Thursday, Mr Rich was still recovering in hospital, surrounded again by the friends he was with on the night of the attack.

The group, including Mr Rich and his boyfriend, another couple and several single friends had been at the Henry Rous Tavern in Ballina for the pub’s weekly trivia night.

Mr Rich said he got very drunk and had to be informed later that at some point during the night he had stepped outside and had an altercation with someone outside the pub.

The group left the pub at 9.30pm and immediately crossed to the river side of River Street. It is here

Mr Rich alleges he was attacked by a small group of youths, which soon swelled to a group of up to 20.

Mr Rich, who was a disability support worker in Brisbane, said he owed his life to his friend Tully Rodwell, who helped him.

Scared, bruised and bleeding profusely, he managed to get away and run to the foyer of the nearby Ballina RSL Club.

There he collapsed on a couch, where he lapsed in and out of consciousness until an ambulance arrived and took him to Ballina Hospital.

“I just needed to get somewhere safe. Before I even got there a woman was running along and screaming for help. I was trying to stay calm and make conversation with people in the club so they wouldn’t panic,” he said.

“But I was saying goodbye to my friends because I thought I was going to die. I was bleeding everywhere.”

Although Mr Rich only moved to Wollongbar from Brisbane two months ago, he said the attack would not send him packing. “I have my feet sunk in here. I love it. It is not the area that did this too me.”
Mr Rich said he was not going to invest any time or energy being angry with his attackers.

“They are not worth it, it’s not worth getting upset or angry. This is their problem, not mine. I’m just the one who has to wear the scars,” he said. “I came out of the closet for a reason, not for others to put me back in it.”

Ballina police yesterday charged a 17-year-old Ballina male  with recklessly cause grievous bodily harm, affray, malicious damage and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The youth was refused bail and will appear before Parramatta Children’s Court via video link later today.

Police said investigations into the circumstances regarding others involved in the incident were ongoing.


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