There’s evidence to suggest that crimes motivated by hate are on the rise. Such incidents can be devastating to the individuals and communities impacted. We take a look at what exactly hate crimes are, why they’re becoming more common, and how we can put a stop to them.
What is hate crime?
A hate crime is when someone commits a criminal offence against another person (or their property) that’s motivated by prejudice. This prejudice could be against someone’s actual or perceived race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. The victim doesn’t have to fit those labels. However, if the offender assumes that they do, it's enough to label it a hate crime.
In the UK, you may also hear the term hate incident. This refers to any incident where the victim feels the offender’s prejudice towards them has motivated it. Such incidents may not be criminal offences, but they can still be damaging and should still be reported.
What types of hate crimes are there?
The line between incident and crime may seem like a complicated one. However, the website Full Fact gives a good explanation of where the boundary sits. The best way to understand it is to look at some examples:
These occur when you feel targeted by an incident because the offender thinks you fall into a particular category that they’re hostile towards. For example:
- Verbal abuse aimed at the victim because they look like they’re from a certain ethnicity.
- Harassment because the offender thinks the victim is gay.
- Bullying or intimidation based on the victim’s assumed religious beliefs.
- Threats of violence based on the victim’s perceived gender identity.
- Online abuse aimed at the victim because of their assumed disability.
Again, it’s worth mentioning that even if you don’t fall into the offender’s stereotype (you’re not of the religion, sexuality, or gender identity they assume), you can still be the victim of a hate incident.
When a hate incident breaks the law and becomes a criminal offence, it’s known as a hate crime. Any criminal offence can be considered a hate crime if it’s been carried out based on prejudice. This includes if they target a person’s disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation. Examples include:
- Causing harassment, alarm or distress
- Hate mail or other offensive communications.
- Assault or sexual assault
- Theft or burglary
- Criminal damages
If you’ve experienced a hate incident or hate crime, even if you’re not the direct victim, you can report it to the police. To make sure it’s reported as a hate crime or hate incident, you should inform them that you believe the offence to be motivated by prejudice.
Are hate crimes on the rise?
In both the UK and the US, there is evidence to show an increase in the number of reported incidents.
The effects of hate crime
Hate crimes can devastate individuals, their families, and their communities. Some studies suggest that those who are targeted by violent hate crime experience more distress than those of other violent crimes. Victims are more likely to experience:
- Post-traumatic stress
- Safety concerns
- Depression and anxiety
- Changes in lifestyle, such as where they walk and how they interact with people.
- A lasting feeling of anger and fear
The feeling of anger and fear can spread to the wider community that the victim belongs to. It can impact their social group, making them feel they have to behave in a certain way.
For a more detailed look at how these effects are felt by individuals and communities, check out this PDF report on the psychological effects of hate crime.
Tackling hate crime
So, now that we know how problematic hate crime is, how do we put a stop to it? Legislation such as the UK Equality Act and a variety of US laws are aimed at protecting people’s rights. However, these laws are not always perfect, as Amnesty UK explains.
There are things we can do as individuals and as a society to reduce hate crimes and incidents. Here are just a few of the ways to make a difference:
- Be a good ally. In our guide on Things you can do to help your LGBTQ+ friend, we look at ways you can stand up to and challenge negative behaviours and influence others.
- Report it. If you’re the victim of or witness to a hate crime or incident, you should report it to the police. For emergencies, call 999 in the UK and 911 in the US. For non-emergencies, dial 101 in the UK or contact your local police in the US.
- Call out hate. In the UK, Stop Hate UK has a hate crime helpline offering confidential 24-hr support.
- Get support. Organisations such as Safe Horizon in the US and Report It in the UK provide support, advice, and resources for victims of hate crimes.