Sidmouth woman experiences ‘discrimination, prejudice and racism’

Helen Matthew. Picture: Helen Matthew

Helen Matthew. Picture: Helen Matthew - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth resident who has suffered serious racist abuse is urging the local community to speak up against discrimination.

Helen Matthew has lived in Sidmouth since 2017 with her husband and family, and said she has experienced ‘discrimination, prejudice and racism’.

She said she was on Sidmouth Beach with her children and was approached by a man who swore at her and told her to ‘go back to her own country’.

Another time, she was chatting to a friend near a zebra crossing in Sidmouth, and a businessman in a van had stopped. When she gestured to him to continue, as they were not crossing, he verbally abused her.

She was hit on the back by a man at a doctors’ surgery and, more recently, she has received racist abuse on Facebook from local residents.

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Feeling increasingly unwelcome, Mrs Matthew discussed with her husband Marek the possibility of moving away.

But she has been heartened by support from the local Black Lives Matter movement, which she joined after seeing the number of people who attended a peaceful anti-racist gathering on the seafront on June 20.

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She said: “I feel that Sidmouth needs to be more proactive in combating racist attitudes and I have found that, in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I have been supported and encouraged to bring awareness to the community that racism is very much alive and kicking and causes so much pain, humiliation and distress.

“I would encourage the community to speak up against racist attitudes so that ethnic minority groups like myself living within the community experience solidarity.”

She said critics of the Black Lives Matter movement needed to ask themselves whether they felt at risk from police brutality, racism, discrimination, prejudice, hate crime and racial profiling.

If not, they had the privilege of knowing their lives did matter – something she and her children would never experience.

She also believes education is ‘key’, adding: “We must teach colonialism in the curriculum, so that the generations to come have a broader understanding of the racist attitudes in the communities they live in.”

Mrs Matthew said: “I am a confident and outspoken woman, although there are those in our communities who are not.

“This does not mean they have not been affected, it just means their voices haven’t been heard. But I strongly believe a little bit of their soul has been destroyed.”

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