The report, Crime and prejudice, focuses on the experience and support needs of people who suffered attacks because of their ethnic origin or sexual orientation, and is part of a £100,000 research programme, funded by Co-operative Insurance (CIS). It brings together evidence from in-depth interviews with 107 hate crime victims, a survey of and workshops with service providers, as well as a review of existing research.
The experience of hate crime can be life-changing. Being targeted for who you are sets hate crime and its affects apart from most other types of crime. Hate crime can have a deep impact on the victim’s culture, identity and self-esteem. Victim Support helps around 30,000 people affected by racist crime alone each year, and numbers are rising.
The research found that hate crime victims suffered major damage to the quality of their life, including the loss of their home or business due to arson or vandalism, and deterioration of emotional well-being. Some even abandoned life outside the home: “I thought, if I was going to get harassed when I go out, then I’d rather stay inside. It got to the point where I stopped working and I started claiming benefits.”
Worryingly, some victims said that they see abuse as part of daily life: “We are learning to cope with the abuse during weekends and holidays because this is the time when there is more abuse. There is really nothing I can do about it.”
Just over half of those interviewed suffered from ongoing victimisation. Many described living with the fear of repeat attacks: “It is just horrible… I keep my mobile phone in my hand all the time, not in my pocket, so that I can call the police because I know they will attack me again.”
Victims gave a number of reasons for not reporting the crime to the police. “… let’s be perfectly blunt about it, there would be retaliation and I would get no support.” Fear of going to court, concern about revenge attacks, and a lack of understanding from the police were significant factors in under-reporting.
Although awareness of hate crime is increasing, the research found evidence of police taking a “there is nothing we can do” approach towards so-called low-level harassment, which over time has serious affects: “What affected me more was the attitude of the police officer, who took it so lightly.”
Of those who did report the crime, only one in five felt that they were well supported by the police. However, where victims were dealt with by specialist police officers, they were seen as the most helpful source of support.
Victims surveyed wanted the police to be more communicative and more sympathetic, and to take hate crime seriously. “At least a number should be provided to contact the police, or a helpline … I was going through five phone numbers, digging somewhere on the internet to find the Leeds Metropolitan Police contact number.”
A common complaint was the lack of action on the part of the police, either to help solve problems or to pursue the perpetrator. Police were also criticised for poor communication – especially not informing on the progress of a case. Respondents often didn’t know about third-party reporting, which could contribute to the under-reporting of hate crimes.
When victims were asked what more could have been done for them, many called for greater awareness-raising, among young people in particular, as well as an increase in measures to tackle the causes of hate crime.
Key recommendations from the research are:
greater investment in promotion of services to at-risk communities
the police and the Crown Prosecution Service need to understand and respond to the needs of victims, and record hate crime more accurately
services for victims of hate crime need to be more joined up
support services need more funding for specialist staff
the root causes of hate crime need to be tackled.
The report also suggests ways for Victim Support to improve its own service to victims of hate crime. These include increasing visibility and outreach, a 24hr Supportline, improving referrals and a more personal service.
Peter Dunn, Head of Research & Development at Victim Support said: “Hate crime symbolises all the worst aspects of prejudice. Our research shows that it has a more profoundly damaging effect on victims that is often not fully understood by the criminal justice system.
“Hate crime damages whole communities, not just the individuals who are targeted. It makes people afraid that they might be the next victim and creates a climate of fear. We will be sharing the findings of this research with the police, Crown Prosecution Service and other community groups to work together more effectively and improve our support for victims of hate crime.
“Through this research Victim Support has learned that we need to make our services more visible and accessible to the communities most at risk, but we need more funding to do this.
“The next step is to develop new guidance and training materials for our local branches and we are very grateful to CIS for funding this programme of work.”
Chris Smith, Head of Community and Co-operative Affairs at the Co-operative Group said: “As an insurance company, CIS deals daily with victims of many types of crime. Supporting Victim Support with this research was important as we wanted to understand the breadth of hate crime, the issues facing service providers and finally, to help make a difference for the victims.
The Co-operative Group’s values include social responsibility and caring for others. Our association with Victim Support is just one way that we are putting our values into practice for the benefit of minority groups in society”.