A “devastating” number of hate crimes are committed by people closer to home than many would like to believe, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Leicester.
Harrowing examples of these crimes include disabled individuals being tipped from wheelchairs, human excrement being posted through letterboxes at homes and guide dogs being attacked in the street, leading many victims to feel unsafe stepping out the front door.
These findings are the result of the two-year Leicester Hate Crime Project, the widest-ranging study of hate crime ever untaken, which has highlighted that in over a third of cases offenders are known to the victim, either as acquaintances, neighbours, friends, work colleagues, family members or carers. Stevie-Jade Hardy, the project’s Lead Researcher, explained:
“There has been a prevailing assumption that hate crimes are committed by strangers, far-right extremists or hate fuelled individuals. However, this study shows that those who commit hate crimes are often ordinary people who are known to the victim and this was found to have a profoundly devastating emotional and physical impact on the victim.”
The research, undertaken by a specialist research team based at the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), examined the nature and impact of hate crime and of victims’ expectations of service providers. The research team heard from nearly 1,500 victims targeted on the basis of their identity characteristics or perceived ‘difference’ and found that many felt vulnerable, depressed or suicidal as a result of hate crime. Victims also felt neglected by support networks, with less than a quarter reporting their most recent experience of hate crime to the police, and fewer still reporting to other networks, organisations or individuals in a position of authority and trust.
Dr Neil Chakraborti, Reader in Criminology at the University of Leicester and the project’s Principal Investigator, said:
“Local authorities and police forces have worked hard to raise awareness of hate crime and of support mechanisms in place. However, we found that many of the 4,000 community members we engaged with had never even heard of the term ‘hate crime’. “Service providers must do more to treat victims with empathy, patience and humanity, to make reporting procedures more accessible, and to support victims from all sections of society.”
Jon Garland, Co-Investigator on the project while at Leicester who is now a Reader in Criminology at the University of Surrey, added:
“We need to make sure that victims of hate crime are treated appropriately and with care by agencies that should be there to help them. To this end, the project team has produced a Victims’ Manifesto, based upon the views and wishes of the victims we’ve spoken to, that sets out ten key steps that can be taken to improve the support that victims receive. “Our aim is to get as many organisations and individuals to sign up to the Manifesto as possible, so that we can begin to make a real and positive difference to the lives of those that suffer hate crime.”
The Leicester Centre for Hate Studies, based at the University of Leicester, offers guidance on how to implement the recommendations from this research, and is encouraging professionals from all sectors to pledge support to the Victims’ Manifesto so they can take strides to eliminate hate crime.
Story Source: University of Leicester