At twenty-three I had never volunteered for anything before, never mind been on a training day! So the whole process was not only new but also ever so slightly terrifying. I hadn’t come through the usual channels that people go through in life to get here. Before a few months ago I had never heard of Stop Hate UK. That’s not to say that I wasn’t in need of it or that the publicity team aren’t doing a good job! It has more to do with the fact that I had no idea what Hate Crime was, I had no idea it was even a thing that happened. I thought it was just… the way of the world…
The rising name of Stop Hate UK has not yet spread to Lancashire, never mind the tiny village of Heysham that I called my home until very recently. Which is something that saddens me greatly but also fuels my desire to be involved more than ever. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know I could have used them back when I was in Secondary School. I went to an all girls’ grammar school for seven years – just that simple fact meant we were subject to numerous lesbian rumours and assumptions being made about us. In their defence they were kind of right, about me anyway (I identify as a Queer non-binary person now). But just because they were right it made it a hundred times harder to come out. That and the awful ingrained heteronormativity of our society and stigma of being gay (I didn’t really learn the term ‘queer’ until recently) made the first eighteen years of my life a never-ending nightmare of self-loathing, fear and lies – to myself and everyone around me.
Please don’t get me wrong, I have the most supportive family and an incredible group of friends that anyone could ever ask for! They made the very hard process of – trying to get to know, understand and accept myself – possible to begin with. I know for sure I wouldn’t have come as far as I have without them; especially the two ‘fellow gays’ I met on my first day of University. Tash and Abi gave me the push I needed and provided me with all the queer films, TV shows and literature that I could ever need. They were the first to ever really show me it was okay to be gay and to love who you love.
But being thirteen and sat in Sex Ed, surrounded by twenty-seven people you have come to think of as friends and hearing some of them talk about not wanting to be in the same P.E. changing room with a lesbian in case they ‘look at you’…. Or being seventeen and getting called into the Head of Sixth Form’s office at break because you were ‘caught’ writing lesbian fanfiction in your free periods and she thought it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ and ‘what if one of the younger girls saw it and thought it was okay to be gay?’
Alright, she didn’t say that last bit but it was very heavily implied. And just so we’re clear, other than the fact that the characters were two girls in love with each other, there wasn’t anything remotely ‘inappropriate’ in the story.
Or being put on report for skipping class because you spent that hour hiding in the basement toilets sobbing, overcome with self-loathing and shame for everything you are because the aforementioned teacher – someone who is meant to support and guide you – managed to destroy in fifteen minutes what you had spent your whole life building up and fighting for.
Our family spends most of our lives telling us we can be anything, do anything if we just work hard, believe and set our minds to it. But it wasn’t until after I confessed to my mum that I might be something other than straight, did I start to hear the words ‘it’s okay to be gay’, ‘it’s okay to be who you are’, ‘we will still love you no matter who you bring home’.
I swear when I started writing this I hadn’t meant it to be so dark and woe is me. I just wanted to try and explain how I came to be here, writing a blog as a volunteer for Stop Hate UK. My story is one of the lighter, less soul destroying origin stories, I’m sure. Even so, the littlest of things has affected and shaped me and how I live my life now. I have never been assaulted, or disowned, or fired because of who I am and who I love, like so many other LGBTQAI* people out there. But still the stigma, the ingrained fear that society has instilled in me since I was very young – the shouts of ‘lesbians!’ out of car windows as if it was a bad word, an insult – even after five years of proudly being with my fiancée, I still hesitate when I go to hold her hand in public, still have to fight back the fear and hate.
And that’s why, when Rose, the Chief Executive at Stop Hate UK, gave me her card a few months ago now, I knew I wanted to be a part of this charity. I wanted to use all those experiences – take all my past pain and hope for the future and love for my fellow Queers – and do something meaningful with my time on this planet. I knew I wanted to do everything I could to help stop hate.
National Hate Crime Awareness Week
All crime is wrong, but crime that is motivated by hostility or hatred towards the victim is particularly corrosive. It can have devastating consequences for victims and their families, and can also divide communities.
This is why I welcome Hate Crime Awareness Week 2015. It will be a great opportunity to show how we can work together to tackle hate crime.
As the Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, I have had the privilege of meeting representatives from a wide range of groups who work to tackle hate crime. I cannot overstate how much they do to challenge the attitudes that foster hatred and support victims. Whether it is the Community Security Trust offering security, protection and reassurance to the Jewish community, Tell MAMA helping victims of anti-Muslim hate crime through the justice system, or GALOP offering care to LGBT victims of hate crime, all of our stakeholders play a vital role in the fight against hatred.
Getting the response to hate crime right depends on local partnerships and collaboration. I congratulate all local areas who have organised events this Hate Crime Awareness week to promote local services and initiatives and urge them to continue the excellent work they are doing.
However, we know that there is still much to do. We know that more antisemitic hate crimes were reported to the Community Security Trust in 2014 than in any other year since it began collecting data in 1984, and this trend has continued into 2015. We know that the Metropolitan Police Service recorded more anti-Muslim hate crime in the year we saw isolated incidents in Paris and Tunisia and ongoing instability in Syria and Iraq. We know that there are people here in the UK who seek opportunities to divide communities and cause harm to those who they perceive as different.
This is why tackling hate crime is one of my priorities as a minister. Hate Crime Awareness Week is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the journey that has brought us to this point and consider how we continue our progress in the fight against hate crime. We should not forget the victims in this fight.
We need your help too, because without your reports, we do not know where incidents are happening, or the true scale of the problem. Please come forward and report any incidents to the police, either directly or through True Vision at http://www.report-it.org.uk
Karen Bradley MP
I’m proud to add my support to ‘No to Hate Crime Awareness Week’ and the work of all the organisations who have come together to build better and safer communities.
No-one in our society should be threatened, targeted, attacked or abused for being who they are.
It is the duty of community leaders, elected officials like me, and those in a position of public power and influence to lead the way.
Britain celebrates diversity and individuality, and I believe we should all work together to build a society where everyone can live freely and safely, regardless of race, religion, sex, sexuality, nationality, age or disability.
For too long hate crimes were left to go unchallenged, with prejudice lurking on our streets, in our schools and in the work place. Weeks like this help us all remember the past, and also recognise how far we have come. Thankfully, it is through the vital work of organisations like yours that we are starting to turn the dial on public awareness. But more must be done. As the latest figures prove, hate crimes remain on the rise. We may feel that society is more likely to challenge prejudice, but it’s as prevalent as ever and now is not a time to be complacent.
There are thousands of people across the country, and many young people, who still face abuse and threats. It is our duty to pave a way to a better future. We will not tolerate hate crime, we will speak out against intolerance and ignorance, and we will prosecute abuse.
The Liberal Democrat constitution begins with a commitment to building and safeguarding a fair, free and open society. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of every individual, and we reject all prejudice and discrimination.
I wish all of those involved in #NHCAW great success with the week, and with your future campaigns. You all make a great difference to people’s lives, day in, day out, and for future generations. You have my party’s full support.
Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Message of support for Hate Crime Awareness Week
I want to pass on my support for this year’s hate crime awareness week.
Standing up against all forms of hate crime; Disability, Faith, Gender Identity, Race, Sexual Orientation and other emerging hate crimes, has always been core to my values. It is vital that we tackle all forms of prejudice wherever and in however they appear.
This year’s focus on raising awareness of Islamaphobic hate crime is particularly salient in light of the appalling murder of Mohammed Saleem as he made his way home from evening prayers last year. Despite all the progress we have made on equality issues Islamaphobia continues to be a daily challenge for too many in our communities. In order to truly be a society that accepts no barriers to talent and contribution we must challenge the often unpleasant and narrative that emerges too often amongst commentary on the Muslim community.
It is vital that we encourage all of those subjected to hate crimes to report their experiences, in order to both hold those who commit such pernicious actions to account, but also to empower those affected and demonstrate the confidence that we as society will not tolerate the actions of those who seek to divide us. I am particularly pleased that the work of Tell MAMA is being widely promoted throughout this week. I encourage all those subjected to Anti Muslim hate crime to share their experiences.
The work of hate crimes awareness week in bringing together so many community and faith events across the country is an vital example of demonstrating that this country expects better. It is particularly encouraging that the number of activities held throughout the week continues to grow and I would like to pass on my best wishes to all of those involved in making the week a success.
We must never cease in our battle to make Britain and kinder and fairer place. I urge you all to remember those who have suffered or are suffering today and join our tireless battle for change.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party
Hate Crime Awareness week is an important reminder of the need to continually confront hate crime and take every opportunity to celebrate diversity in Great Britain.
It is also a chance to remember those who have been a victim of these despicable crimes and champion people who make it their duty to challenge intolerance and hatred.
Crime in all its forms is wrong, but to persecute people purely because of their background, gender, creed, sexual orientation or physical and mental ability is utterly abhorrent. From 2013-2014, there were more than 44,000 hate crimes recorded by the police – an increase of five per cent. This is unacceptable in a 21st century Britain.
For too long, we’ve been so frightened of causing offence that we haven’t looked hard enough at what is going on in our communities. In too many cases there has been a passive tolerance in Britain of behaviour which fuels division and tensions in our communities.
So let me be clear: no more passive tolerance in Britain. We all have a responsibility to stop this hatred: whether it is as simple as challenging the attitudes and behaviour that foster such prejudice at a young age or backing communities so they feel they have the tools to speak out against hatred.
The government has a crucial role to play in this too, which is why we have one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to continue to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.
So we will continue to support communities and charities like Stop Hate UK and 17-24-30 so that victims are heard, perpetrators face justice and communities are protected.
Over generations, we have built something extraordinary in Britain – a successful multi-racial, multi-faith democracy. Our diversity makes us stronger and my one-nation government will go on working hard to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today.
PM David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party
In our diverse capital city we ALL need to be aware of hate crime…
As Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in London it was really important to me that my organisation took part in Hate Crime Awareness Week and supported Stop Hate UK. We are all fortunate to live in a hugely diverse and vibrant city, however, this means that it is ever more important for everyone who works, lives and visits the city to be vigilant to hate crime. Those who commit hate crime attack the diversity which makes this city so great.
In CPS London we will be using Hate Crime Awareness Week to provoke a discussion on hate crime within our teams and units and ensuring that all our staff are up to date with the latest policies and guidance we have on hate crime. In addition I want to make sure that all staff are attuned to the sensitivities involved in prosecuting hate crime including the use of language and terminology.
But it is not just the Criminal Justice System that has a role to play in stopping hate crime.
Thankfully most Londoners will not have seen or experienced hate crime but for many of you reading this blog it may be that you have been a victim yourself, you know someone who is a victim or you have been a witness to hate crime. I want you to know that we will do everything we can to support you through the court process once a prosecution for hate crime has begun. Victims and witnesses of hate crime can be given special measures to help them give evidence in court, such as being screened from the defendant or giving their evidence through an intermediary. CPS prosecutors are given training to deal with these types of cases and the sensitivities they can entail, such as the fear of ‘outing’ in homophobic hate crime cases.
I have seen the profound effect hate crime can have on victims, their families and the wider community – but it is not just victims who can report these types of crime. Even with the support we can give victims may still feel too scared to report the crime themselves. They may not understand that they were a victim of hate crime due to language barriers or learning difficulties. If a witness reports the crime and is willing to give evidence we can prosecute the case as a hate crime. This allows the court to consider a tougher sentence and will hopefully result in the victim and the community feeling a greater sense of justice.
Hate crime can take many forms including hostility towards race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. However, a victim does not have to be gay to be a victim of homophobic hate crime, it may be that a person shows hostility because they think the victim is gay. Alternatively if a person shouts racist abuse at a victim but they do not understand it because they do not speak English, it can still be prosecuted as a hate crime if a witness hears it and realises that it is racist.
Hate crime is a key priority for the CPS and in London we have a Scrutiny and Involvement Panel which is made up of members of community groups and support organisations as well as our criminal justice partners. The panel examines completed cases to identify where lessons can be learned and where good practice can be shared. It also allows us to gain insight of how these crimes are affecting communities and how we can better support victims.
I have pledged to do all that I can to tackle hate crime by ensuring that our prosecutors robustly prosecute offenders in court, we support victims and working with local communities. I hope that you will also pledge to do your part by not averting your gaze or keeping quiet if you are a witness to a hate crime, report to the police what you see and hear and help us to achieve justice.
Baljit Ubhey OBE
Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in London
Yesterday, the Home Office produced figures to show an overall 18% increase in Hate Crime reporting for the 5 monitored strands – disability, faith, gender identity, race and sexual orientation – across England and Wales.
While an increase in the reporting of any crime may be disappointing to some – this particular increase provides some good news for all those working to support people affected by Hate Crime. We know from other findings such as the British Crime Survey for England and Wales, that Hate Crime is particularly under-reported across all the strands; many more people experience Hate Crimes and incidents but do not subsequently report to the police or other agencies. This reluctancy to report can be for multiple reasons – a general mistrust of the police or the criminal justice system, a poor previous experience of reporting, a fear of reprisal from the perpetrators or others, or a lack of knowledge or confidence around where and how to report.
Rose Simkins, Chief Executive for Stop Hate UK, said
“ The Home Office figures show, to some extent, that the work Stop Hate UK and other agencies, including the police are doing to raise awareness around Hate Crime and develop accessible systems is slowly having an effect on the increase in reporting from the public. However, we cannot be complacent or satisfied in any way that we have done enough to facilitate people who have experienced Hate Crime from stepping forward to report. We want everyone to know how Hate Crime affects people and how getting the right support can change how we feel about ourselves. Hate Crime ruins lives and we all need to show that we have no tolerance for Hate Crime in our society.
I do welcome the increase in reports of Hate Crime to the police over the last year but I am still concerned that we are not seeing and addressing the true picture of misery that infects the lives of those who experience hatred.”
While the figures show a substantial % change in the number reporting religiously aggravated incidents – 43% in 2014/15 compared to 2013/4 – this increase may be due in part to more accurate recording rather than more people reporting. The reporting of hate motivated crimes due to a person’s gender identity has only increased by 9%; this strand is the most under-reported of all strands with only 605 incidents being reported during 2014/5.
“ Organisations across the sector are encouraged by the increase in reporting of Hate Crime across all the monitored strands; we are all working hard to improve the quality and effectiveness of the services we offer. This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week and the number of activities and initiatives taking place is great to see. But, while there are thousands of people still being impacted by hateful words and behaviour, our work will continue to try and build their confidence and trust in reporting Hate Crime and we will all continue working together to improve the accessibility of our services. There is ‘No Place For Hate’ in our society.”
National Hate Crime Awareness Week
Stop Hate UK are once again proud to be working in partnership with the charity, 17-24-30, to coordinate and promote National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2015.
17-24-30 was set up in 2009 by Mark Healey and Ryan Parkins following the London bombings in 1999 so that we would never forget the 139 people who were killed or injured. National Hate Crime Awareness Week has since become a focus each year for individuals and organisations, large and small, to show their commitment to stopping hate.
The week begins on Saturday 10 October with a service of Hope and Remembrance at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where a candle will be lit by Maz Saleem, in memory of her father, Mohammed Saleem who was murdered in 2013 and all those who have lost their lives or experienced Hate Crime.
During the week various events and initiatives will be held throughout the country by charitable and voluntary organisations, statutory agencies such as the police, police and crime commissioners, local authorities – and many others. Through information stalls, campaigns and social media these agencies will be working together to raise awareness about the different ways to report Hate Crime and the support services that exist to help those who are affected.
This year, the response from organisations and agencies has been terrific; some of the events and activities being held are very imaginative. In Leeds, the First Direct Arena is lighting up in red in support for all those affected by Hate Crime; there’ll be Samba dancing and food tasting in Plymouth; a multi-media art exhibition in Derby and a ‘Cuppa with a Coppa’ in Yarm. The week’s activities culminate on Saturday 17 October which is the International Day of Hope and Remembrance; a number of candlelight vigils will be taking place across the world in remembrance of all those affected by Hate Crime.
Rose Simkins, Chief Executive of Stop Hate UK said:
“It is wonderful to see so many organisations working together to raise awareness about Hate Crime. Hate Crime across all monitored strands – disability, faith, gender identity, race and sexual orientation is a much under-reported crime. The Home Office Hate Crime statistics, due to be released on 13 October will hopefully show an increase in Hate Crime reporting across England and Wales which will be good news; however, while the number of Hate Crimes continues to rise there are many people who are suffering in silence and whose well-being, physical and mental health has been adversely affected. It’s important that we all continue to work together to ensure that those people who have been impacted by Hate Crime know where and how they can access support and the different options available to them. We want to see all perpetrators brought to justice and our communities made safer.”
Rose also said
“As part of Stop Hate UK’s commitment to the week we are extending our existing helpline service, 0800 138 1625, to anyone in the UK who experiences or witnesses Hate Crime for the duration of the week. Our lines will open at 6pm on 10 October and stay open for anyone, wherever they live in the UK until 6pm on 17 October. Please call or contact us by phone, email, text, text relay, web chat, online forms or the post”.