A hate crime, defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is “violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability”. Hate crimes can come in the form of rape, sexual assault, verbal or physical harassment, vandalism and robbery, as well as attacks on homes or places of worship. In the U.S. hate crimes are prohibited by forty one states as well as the District of Columbia. The ban of hate crimes means that a penalty for a crime such as vandalism, assault, or murder can become more severe if bias due to intolerance is determined. People who commit hate crimes may do so because they are:
- Ignorant about people who are different from themselves and are terrified of the difference
- They need to be able to look down on others in order to compensate for their own low self-esteem
- They have been brutalized themselves, though not by their victims, and therefore see brutalizing as a fair game
The effect of a hate crime on an individual can be quite drastic. Due to the fact that the crime is committed because of their identity (race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability), an individual may experience an array of additional emotional distress. This additional emotional distress is on top of the already severe emotional response an individual experiences from a crime.
A person who has experienced a hate crime may undergo:
- Deep personal hurt
- Feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability, anger and sadness
- Fear for personal and family’s safety
- Changes in lifestyle that include things such as reactions to strangers and where they walk
Often, victims of hate crimes experience physiological distress including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In addition, victims of a hate crime may experience a greater sense of anger as compared to other victims of crime. For example, victims of a hate crime may exhibit effects of both hate crimes as well as another crime, such as rape or sexual assault.
If you have been a victim of a hate crime, or may have seen someone who has become victim of this crime, reporting is an important step. To report a hate crime, you can contact your local FBI office. Further information can be found on the FBI’s Hate Crime website. Your local victim support agency can help in reporting. You can locate a victim support agency closest to you by using Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s website.
- “Hate Crime.” National Crime Prevention Council . N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2013. <http://www.ncpc.org/topics/hate-crime>.
- “Hate Crimes .” RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network . N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2013. <http://www.rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/hate-crimes>.