Most recent figures from the Home Office* showed a 29% increase in hate crime in England and Wales and these figures have consistently grown. We are going through a time of extremism, politically and socially on both domestic and international fronts and as a result hate crime attacks are sadly on the increase.
In the UK the Brexit issue has led to increased attacks on non-British people and the recent antisemitism row in Labour emboldens people to feel empowered to attack Jewish groups. The current US president seems to thrive on being combative and aggressive, #Metoo has created greater awareness and inequalities in wealth and power have grown. Leading psychotherapist Noel McDermott believes that when people feel they are excluded they look for scapegoats and more crimes like this are committed.
What is a Hate Crime?
Hate crimes are linked in the UK to the 9 equality strands – age, disability, gender, race and ethnicity, religion and belief, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. If a crime happens and there is evidence that this happened because of one of these issues e.g. an assault happens on a male homosexual couple, it would not just be an assault but a hate crime.
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Sadly these equality strands are groups of people in society who are institutionally targeted and seen as being “less than” by hate crime perpetrators – they are regarded as “the other” rather than “us” – with the white heterosexual able-bodied male seen as the template for the most privileged individual”.
Why do people commit hate crimes?
Unsurprisingly we know there are high risk groups of people who commit crime such as those who feel marginalised in some way (often economic or cultural marginalisation) or those who feel socially isolated. For these perpetrators we must look at what is happening to the human being inside to understand them. A loving connection is missing and often these individuals have trauma issues and will need specialist treatment to help to deal with this or they will become more isolated or dangerous.
We have only to look at gang crime and the crime-ridden estates in London. These young people have been brutalised and groomed some even from as young as 9 years old, their initiation rites will involve shooting a stranger or assaulting a friend as part of the recruitment procedure. Often these kids will have high levels of trauma and will have flashbacks to their own abuse whilst committing their crimes. Untreated PTSD creates aggression, and this is a huge factor in violence and the rise in hate crimes.
Traits of a hate crimes perpetrator
- Previous exposure to and involvement in violence is the biggest single predictor of current risk of perpetrating violence
- Poverty or extreme wealth where people may exist in closed sub groups can lead to extreme views of the other not being challenged
- Isolation from the mainstream
- Anger management issues
Generally, people who are likely to go on to commit a hate crime will be vocal about their prejudicial views and be prone to creating an image of themselves as somehow victimised by the groups they hate.
Noel is as a great advocate of awareness weeks such as National Hate Crime Awareness Week (13th-20th October). He believes it is essential that we have public education. The damage of a hate crime to the individual who is targeted is huge and impacts on our society and these public education campaigns challenge this behaviour. He says: “This week highlights the issues to the public to get the conversation going, the more open we are about these issues the better. Additionally, they will encourage victims to come forward. The campaigns can focus on issues of current concern and combat misinformation with fact”.
What to do if you are a victim of a hate crime
As with any crime it should be reported it to the police. With hate crime there is increased monitoring so it’s helpful to report small things such as verbal abuse in public. If it’s abuse about one of the protected characteristics, it is considered a hate crime. Additionally, the victim may want to seek specialist counselling for the experience. In general, this type of crime exists within the context of larger issues of discrimination that will have been faced by the victim in their lifetime and as such they may have an ‘aggravated’ response. It is possible that victims will have experienced this kind of discrimination before and a hate crime can be very damaging for the individual’s mental health.
Be aware that if after two weeks the victim experiences things such as intrusive thoughts about the incident, a general sense of wariness, a tendency to be jumpy, being short tempered, emotionally labile, trouble with sleep, changes in diet and habit, avoidance of activities or things that remind them of the event, then they are showing signs of anxiety and will need help to overcome this. Long term stress can kill and in some cases victims can suffer extreme reactions such as self-harming and a fear of leaving the house, this needs to be taken very seriously.
Noel McDermott is a pioneering health and social care professional with over 25 years of industry experience. He is passionate about bringing high quality care and support to those who are vulnerable. Noel’s areas of expertise include social care, mental health, child care, refugees, trauma, addiction and recovery, distance therapy, personal development and emotional health and wellbeing.