Guest Author - Stephanie K. Ferguson
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is a crime committed against a person or property which is motivated by an individualís dislike of a race, religion, ethnic/national origin, group, or sexual orientation. Hate crimes as also know as bias crimes. The term entered our nationís common vocabulary in the 1980s when various groups in the US began waves of bias-related crimes.
What does hate crime look like?
Hate crimes encompass many actions/behaviors such as:
~ physical or verbal assault
~ ritualistic abuse; and/or
~ sex crimes.
Groups of people or individuals who hold specific often stereotypic beliefs often look for action by preying on others. The crimes they commit are typically directed at someoneís race, religion, group, ethnic/national origin, or sexual orientation. They often target public buildings or property.
Hate crime statistics
According to the FBI, in 2006 over 7,700 incidents were reported to be motivated by religious, race/ethnic, sexual orientation, or physical/mental disability bias. Of those incidents:
~ 51.8% were motivated by racial bias
~ 18.9% were motivated by a religious bias
~ 15.5% were motivated by a sexual orientation bias
~ 12.7% were motivated by a ethnicity/national origin bias; and
~ 1% involved a bias towards a disability.
Why should hate crimes be reported?
Hate crimes are crimes and should be reported to law enforcement. If you or a member of your family has been a victim of a hate crime, then, chances are it has happened to others, too. The only way to stop hate crimes is to report them. When hate crimes are reported, law enforcement offices have the means to track trends, make arrests, and alert neighborhood groups what incidents in their communities. Because these types of crimes bring with them fear and distrust they are particularly divisive.
What to do?
If you or your adolescent has been a victim of a hate crime, first and foremost, report the incident to law enforcement officials. Next, it is important that you understand the crime, although committed against you or your property, was in most cases motivated by a stereotype that the perpetrator connected to you. Seek counseling. Law enforcement officials have ready resources to suggest as do local mental and physical health care agencies. Remember, you are not alone.