Some hate crime victims are not aware that they’re victims

Homeless man
One of the things that I found quite startling was the fact that a lot of people didn’t seem to know about, or even recognise, the hate crime label. I was asking whether or not they had ever been a victim of hate crime, and initially, they were telling me that they hadn’t. However, on closer inspection, it often transpired that they had.
Stevie-Jade Hardy
University of Leicester criminologists will use a wide-ranging survey to gauge hate crime victims’ experiences and expectations of the criminal justice system and other local support agencies. The upcoming investigation represents the latest stage of the Leicester Hate Crime Project – a two-year study into the nature of hate crime that is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The team hopes to gain fresh insights into how hate crime is dealt with by authorities in the United Kingdom.

In October of last year, ScienceOmega.com spoke to Dr Neil Chakraborti, the study’s Principle Investigator and Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Leicester. During the course of the interview, Dr Chakraborti outlined the aims of this expansive project, and explained why the city of Leicester provides the ideal backdrop for such a study.

Four months on, the criminologists are ready to launch a survey intended to probe into the nature of victims’ experiences of, and feelings about, hate crime. To learn more about the next stage of their investigation, I spoke with Stevie-Jade Hardy, Lead Researcher on the Leicester Hate Crime Project. During our conversation, Hardy outlined the intricate planning behind the survey and revealed that some of the victims with whom she has spoken weren’t even aware of the concept of hate crime…

What were the most significant factors that you had to consider when designing your survey?
We had to consider numerous factors. Because of the wide range of communities with which we are engaging, we had to make sure that our survey was applicable to everybody. We wanted to cover a huge variety of issues. For instance, one of our main aims is to learn more about the experiences of people being victimised because of who they are. We want to know about the nature and impact of their experiences. In order to obtain this type of information, we needed a survey that touched upon a whole host of different topics. At the same time, we didn’t want to make our survey too long.

Was accessibility one of the most important considerations in the making of this survey?
Yes, it was. For example, some of the groups that we are going to be questioning have been victimised because of their status as asylum seekers or refugees. Because of this, we had to account for lots of different variables. Fortunately, from October through to December, we worked with key contacts from different groups to identify how best to approach these communities. Not only did we consult lots of different people, but we also had our survey translated into eight languages.

What might a better understanding of how authorities deal with reported hate crimes teach us about the nature of hate crime itself?
I think that it has the potential to teach us two things really. Firstly, there is still so much that we don’t know about hate crime. We’ve been looking at the five main strands for quite a while now, but there are groups within those strands that we still don’t know an awful lot about. We therefore need to learn more about the people who comprise these strands. Secondly, we need to focus on groups that haven’t been looked at before. We must recognise the experiences of people who have been victimised because of their homelessness, for example, or because of their mental health. There is, of course, a lot that we can learn as academics, but equally, in terms of services, we know that some hate crimes are slipping under the radar. We need to find out why some people are not reporting these crimes through the official channels; why they are not using the support services that are available to them. At the same time, we must recognise the many things that we are doing well. We are confident that the results of our survey will help to inform and improve policy in relation to hate crime.

Why have you decided to conduct interviews and focus groups to supplement the findings of your survey?
Well, the survey is fantastic. We aim to get 1,000 surveys completed, and the results of these surveys will provide us with excellent baseline data. We will learn a great deal about people’s experiences of hate crime. Even so, there is a lot more that we can learn from qualitative interviews, whether they take the form of focus groups or conversations with individuals. This approach should enable us to gain extra information that we just wouldn’t be able to obtain using surveys alone. The results of our qualitative interactions will really help to supplement the findings from our survey.

So, what have you and your colleagues been up to since I talked with Dr Chakraborti in October? Have you made any interesting discoveries?
Yes, we have. From October to December, I was able to get out and about and meet with lots of different communities. One of the things that I found quite startling was the fact that a lot of people didn’t seem to know about, or even recognise, the hate crime label. I was asking whether or not they had ever been a victim of hate crime, and initially, they were telling me that they hadn’t. However, on closer inspection, it often transpired that they had. One of our clear preliminary findings, therefore, is that the top-down approach to hate crime isn’t consistently feeding through to the grass-roots level. Lots of people don’t recognise that some of their day-to-day experiences are actually examples of hate crime.

Also, we’re beginning to build upon the existing definition. We have actually had quite a lot of interest from people who don’t fit within the groups traditionally associated with hate crime. Some of the people with whom we’ve been working have reported being victimised because of their alternative dress sense or because of their homelessness, for example. There are a range of hate crime experiences that have never before been investigated. We have already uncovered some really interesting new cases.


If you would like to get involved with this project, you can contact the team at uolhatecrime@le.ac.uk or follow their Twitter feed @hatecrime_leics.

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