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FEATURE Dominic Crouch


It would be easy for any of us – however


we define our sexual orientation – to believe that homophobia only affects gay people. But as Roger noted, homophobic put-downs are used commonly by school kids to dismiss others. Nobody can know for sure whether Dominic was gay or not, although his father clearly believed he wasn’t. “He did talk about his sexuality a bit,”


he replies when I ask him about this. “He had, not long before he died, asked out one of the girls at the school, or asked her to be ‘in a relationship’ with him, as I think young people these days seem to characterise a relationship by what it means to their Facebook status! He never talked about being gay, and he’d always shown a pretty obvious interest in girls. I do wonder if the homophobic nature of the bullying was sort of conscious homophobia or whether it was that sort of use of the term ‘gay’ as a catch-all put down, because gay is used so casually and frequently in schools, meaning ‘lame’ or ‘useless’. I suspect it may have been a combination of things. He didn’t have a girlfriend… therefore he was easy to label as gay.”


Roger was stunned to recently


receive the Stonewall ‘Hero of the Year’ award, in honour of the way that he had bravely and candidly spoken out against bullying since the death of his son. “I was absolutely gobsmacked! I knew


I’d been nominated. I knew that there were various celebrities up for it, including Lady Gaga, and frankly, I thought my chances of winning any competition in which I was shortlisted alongside Lady Gaga were pretty slim! So, I was amazed really. I was absolutely astounded. “On the one hand I was very honoured, but I think I said on the evening, Paola [his wife] and I were probably the only people who have been awarded Hero of the Year by Stonewall who never really wanted it. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but we


never wanted the circumstances that led to us being considered for it. But… life deals you some funny hands. I’m very proud to have it. “We have a Facebook page at Friends of


Dom Crouch against bullying. There are lots of other good websites. There’s the Anti-Bullying Coalition. There’s Beat Bullying, which I think is the largest anti- bullying charity in the country. There’s


“When I first saw


Dom’s note that said he’d been


bullied, which I saw on the night of his death, my immediate


assumption was that the nature of that bullying was homophobic”


information on Stonewall’s website, and groups like the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (www.lgf.org.uk), which is a Manchester-based charity – they’ve done some fantastic work. Both Stonewall and LGF produce some good packs for schools, specifically on homophobic bullying and tackling homophobia more generally. Increasingly, there are children in schools who are from different families. The kids may not be LGBT, but they might have two dads or two mums, or even just a gay uncle.” Homophobia is an easy stick with which to beat any child who is seen as different, or who perhaps has gay family members or friends. Dominic Crouch experienced homophobic bullying and subsequently killed himself. He is not the


first teenager to do this, and it is unlikely that he will be the last. Now, his father too is dead, and although few people can ever really understand the reasons why someone decides to end their life, the suicide of his son and the subsequent pain of grief must have been a huge factor in Roger Crouch’s decision.


Those who kill themselves often


overlook the huge role that they play in the lives of others, or how they have touched and shaped those around them. Roger Crouch touched the lives of many, and it’s for this reason that he was judged a hero – even if he felt bemused by such an honour. His son, too, was moved by the plight of others. “[Dom] didn’t judge people,” Roger told me as our interview drew to a close. “He wasn’t bothered by the superficial difference between people. He tended to be nice to people who were a bit on the margins. If there was a new kid at rugby club, or if a new kid joined the school other than at the start of the school year, and they were out on the margins, Dom was the sort of person who befriended them. He’d done that since primary school. “We got a tremendously moving letter after he died from someone we’d actually forgotten about. They’d only spent a short time at the primary school Dom was at, and his mother wrote and said how nice Dom had been to her son, who had joined the school at half term and hadn’t stayed for a long time. Dom was the only one who really befriended him. That was the kind of kid he was.”


To help the campaign started in memory of Dominic Crouch, check out the Facebook page ‘Friends of Dom Crouch against bullying’.


For confidential support about suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch - see www.samaritans.org


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