A hate crime is any crime committed that is motivated by bias or based on the victim’s perceived membership in a specific group, such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or religious belief. Hate crimes are intended to induce fear and cause psychological and/or physical harm. Hate crimes are sometimes accompanied by hate speech, but hate speech in and of itself is not always a hate crime.
What are Hate Crimes?
While this list isn’t exhaustive, you may be a victim of a hate crime if:
- Hate speech occurs before, during, or after the commission of the crime
- Symbols of hate are present, potentially on the perpetrator’s clothing or in their personal possessions or left at the scene of the crime
- Your injuries are overly vicious or more than what is typical of that kind of crime
- Gratuitous damage occurs to items of cultural or religious importance
- The perpetrator has committed prior similar acts
- The crime occurs on a relevant date in your or the perpetrator’s calendar, like a holy day
If you have been a victim of a hate crime, you may:
- Feel scared, targeted, and worried if you will be a victim of a hate crime again
- Lose trust in anyone who is a member of the perpetrator’s group
- May reject the part of yourself that was the target of the hate crime
- Feel a desire to hurt yourself or have suicidal thoughts and actions
- Feel depressed, anxious, or preoccupied
- Feel vulnerable and unsafe
- Stop doing things you previously enjoyed and felt safe doing
- Develop an “us vs. them” mentality
What Can I Do?
While there is no universal set of steps that will work for everyone, these actions may help if you have been a victim of a hate crime:
- Call 911 for Immediate Assistance—You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger. If you call, you can ask the responding officer for an emergency protective order against the perpetrator.
- Record What Happened—Write down as much detail about the crime as soon as possible after the crime. After experiencing trauma, important details can be forgotten. Hate language is the most common way to determine if the incident was motivated by bias and recording exactly what was said may be helpful throughout the duration of your case.
- File a Police Report—If you feel it was a hate-motivated incident and you report the crime, ask the responding officer to check the box on the police report for a hate crime. Ask for a copy of the report for your personal records. Be sure to note the responding officer’s name and badge number.
- Lean on Trusted Friends and Family—You don’t have to figure out what to do next by yourself and letting trusted friends and family support you can be helpful after experiencing a hate crime. Consider accepting help driving to appointments, coordinating meals, and child care. If what happened to you is attracting media attention, ask someone you trust to speak on your behalf if you are not comfortable or able to do so.
- Reach out to an Advocate for Support—There are often groups locally, statewide, or nationally that represent a variety of groups who may be victims of hate crimes. These agencies have trained staff and also may provide information, resources, and direct services which could be helpful to you.
- Find an Attorney—A lawyer can help ensure your legal rights are respected during a criminal case or they can help you explore the option of filing a civil lawsuit.
- If You Don’t Trust the Local Authorities—It is possible that you’ll feel that the agencies charged with investigating and prosecuting the crime against you are not putting enough effort into your case. If you feel that way, consider reaching out to an advocate for support or file a report of the crime with the local FBI field office. Find your local FBI field office here.
Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence (CPHV) produces research-driven reports on bias, discrimination, and violence against targeted groups, and develops and implements training and education programs to assist businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, and law enforcement agencies in preventing hate crimes.
Southern Poverty Law Center provides legal services in hate crimes, civil rights, and class action cases and works to educate the public through films and publications. Its Intelligence Report monitors white supremacist groups and hate crimes in the United States.
Visit our VictimConnect Resource Map for additional resources or contact the VictimConnect Resource Center by phone or text at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one after being a victim of a hate crime.