When a child or young person is called names, bullied, threatened or physically hurt by others because of their disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation it is known as a hate incident or hate crime.
A hate incident is an act of hostility which is not defined in law as a crime, e.g. calling someone names, scrawling graffiti on their schoolbooks.
When a hate incident also breaks the law it is called a hate crime, e.g. assault, theft, causing harassment or distress.
Sometimes one child will initiate the behaviour and others will join in.
Hate crimes and incidents are very distressing for the young victim. If it continues over a long period of time, it can adversely affect their education, their confidence and their mental wellbeing.
Children and young people who commit hate crimes can end up with a criminal record which could prevent them pursuing certain careers.
Identifying hate crime
Hate crime originates prejudice or hate based on:
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
- gender identity.
A young person might fall victim to hate crime because of who they are, who their family are, and even who they are perceived to be, e.g. a young person of Indian descent might be subjected to anti-Muslim name-calling even though they are Hindu.
Mate crime is a form of disability hate crime where someone deliberately befriends a vulnerable young person for the sole purpose of exploiting, abusing or taking advantage of them.
Sadly, hate crime is on the increase, which means more children and young people are likely to encounter it.
The impact of social media
Young people are extremely vulnerable to hate incidents/crimes that are not face-to-face. The popularity of social media often means that those who are targeted at school are unable to escape their attackers, even at home.
Cyber-bullying is the use of social media and mobile phones to humiliate, harass, threaten or target someone. If the young person at the receiving end of this treatment perceives it to be motivated by hate based on disability, race, religion, gender or sexuality it is a hate incident (or hate crime depending on the nature of the bullying).
Preventing hate crime
Children learn by example – from their parents, their siblings and their peers. If they constantly hear racist or homophobic comments out of school they might think it is ok to shout names at someone from a different background or push someone who is unsure about their sexuality.
The best way to prevent hate crime is to teach children as early as possible that there is nothing wrong with being different and that hate crime – perhaps calling someone names because they have a different skin colour – is always wrong.
Schools are now doing more to teach children that differences are not bad and to remind them to consider the feelings of the other person.
If a young person tells you they have experienced a hate incident or crime you should report it to the police and say whether they think it was motivated by disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation (this will ensure it is recorded as a hate incident or crime).
If the incident happened at school or during the journey to or from school, it’s important to inform them.
Contact Stop Hate UK, call the police on 101 or report it to the police online.
Disability Wales has more information about Disability Hate Crime.