20 years of challenging hate #4 : It’s good to talk: how the voluntary sector is leading action against Hate Crime

April’s blog is by James Gibbs, our Hate Crime Advocate

Hate Crime destroys lives and devastates communities. It is a topic worthy of continued and concerted attention, awareness and action, yet it remains incredibly under reported.

For example, while there has been international revolt at the treatment of LGBT people in Russia as highlighted by media attention around the Sochi Olympics, research from Stonewall estimates that one in six gay people in the UK have experienced homophobic hate crime, yet as many as three in four victims still do not report the incident.

This scale of under-reporting is something we see replicated across all diversity strands, and is an issue that must be tackled if we are to provide consistent action against perpetrators, and better support victims.

Why is Hate Crime going unreported?

The reasons for low Hate Crime report rates are numerous, and far too vast to detail in just one blog entry. Possibly one reason is that Hate Crime is an issue that a lot of people don’t talk about. Perhaps people don’t want to admit that they live in a society where prejudice and discrimination are possible, less so that this can take the form of such targeted victimisation. The Equality and Human Rights Commission also highlights legal and physical security as an issue, with low prosecution rates and concerns about repeat attacks being cited as particular concerns.

But let’s be clear, there are a lot of people who are talking about Hate Crime, and there are a number of organisations who can help in providing advice and support to victims.

Who is talking about Hate Crime?

A lot of the people talking about Hate Crime are people who work directly supporting victims, punishing offenders and encouraging reporting. Police and Crime Commissioners are talking about it with many prioritising hate crime within their strategies and anti-crime plans. Police forces themselves are talking about Hate Crime, with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance available on Hate Crime, and officers able to record and investigate hate incidents.

The Crown Prosecution Service is also talking about Hate Crime, using various elements of legislation to prosecute offenders and uplift sentences, and the Law Commission gave people the opportunity to discuss extending the aggravated offences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to include where hostility is demonstrated towards people on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity as well as race and religion.

Yet Hate Crime is not just an issue solely for the criminal justice system. Tackling Hate Crime is as much about social justice as it is criminal, and it is everybody’s business.

How is the voluntary sector leading on action against Hate Crime?

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about Hate Crime in the context of the third sector; and in particular, the work that Stop Hate UK does to support victims, raise awareness and encourage reporting. We want to ensure that it is not just those that have direct experience of Hate Crime who are talking about it, but that we are all working towards the stimulation and maintenance of an open and honest public discourse about Hate Crime and discrimination that is accessible and understandable to all.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Stop Hate UK, we are a national charity which provides independent support to victims of Hate Crime.  We provide support across the UK to anybody who has experienced Hate Crime because of any aspect of their identity including, but not restricted to, the five monitored equality strands (race/ethnicity, religion/faith, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity).

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Macpherson report findings

We provide training and consultancy work, and we are involved in both national and local campaigns, but a large part of our work involves encouraging and supporting people to talk about and report Hate Crime. The Macpherson report, published following the death of Stephen Lawrence, highlighted the need for people to have a mechanism through which they can report and talk about Hate Crime. In recommendation 16 of his report, Lord Macpherson said that there should be an independent way to do this, and that people should be able to speak somebody outside of the police, 24 hours a day – this is what Stop Hate UK have strived to provide over the past 9 years, and continue to do so.

Where to report Hate Crime

We have 3 helplines

  • Stop Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Hate Crime helpline on 0808 801 061
  • Stop Learning Disability Hate Crime helpline on 0808 802 1155
  • Stop Hate Line on 0800 138 1625 (available in certain areas of the UK).

These helplines are available every minute of every day for people to contact, giving them the opportunity to talk about their experiences, report incidents and access vital support and information through an independent source.  We are then able to share information, with consent of course, through to the police, council and local support agencies to ensure ongoing support and action. However, as you will be aware, funding is an ongoing concern and challenge for voluntary sector organisations, and in this respect we are no different. One of the problems that we face in providing this service is that it is only available in pockets of the country where we are funded or commissioned to do so.

You can find out where the Stop Hate Line operates on our website.

And so I’d like to end with a call to action, to all of you reading this blog, to join us in our fight to challenge hate.  There are numerous ways you can do this: Follow us on Twitter.  Join us on Facebook.  Write a piece about Hate Crime for a newsletter or article at work.  Volunteer with us to distribute promotional materials and helpline leaflets.  The options are endless, but most importantly, talk to us.

Hate Crime is a painful reality for a lot of individuals and communities, so let’s not shy away from this and pretend it doesn’t exist.  We should instead be encouraging and supporting people to talk about it, report it and challenge it.

Thank you for reading this blog and talking about Hate Crime.  Let’s talk.

 

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