The mirror: do others see us the way in which we see ourselves?
A mirror is an object we use to look at ourselves; to check our appearance and to ensure we are presentable. But what if other people view us differently from how we view ourselves? And what if people don’t like what they see? What if, to others, we are an object of hate?
When someone expresses hatred or hostility towards another because of who they are, then this is a hate crime. Hate crimes are acts where a person has been deliberately targeted because of prejudice towards that individual’s actual or perceived identity. Although hate crime – and the forms of verbal abuse, bullying, harassment and violence associated with it – is now more widely recognised as a significant social problem, we still do not fully understand the impact that such acts have on the victim. It is for this reason that Criminologists at the University of Leicester have launched the Leicester Hate Crime Project, a two-year study of hate crime victimisation.The Leicester Hate Crime Project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is examining the experiences of those who have been victimised because of their identity, vulnerability or perceived ‘difference’ in the eyes of the perpetrator. In the past, research on hate crime has tended to focus upon five monitored strands of identity: race, religion, disability, sexuality and transgender status. However, as well as investigating the experiences of the more ‘recognised’ hate crime victim communities, it is also important to consider groups whose experiences of hate and prejudice often slip under the radar. The Leicester Hate Crime project will be unlike any previous study of its kind because the research team will be working with a much broader range of marginalised groups, including the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers, Gypsies and Travellers, people with mental health problems, and those belonging to alternative subcultures; amongst many others. This is what makes the Leicester Hate Crime project Britain’s biggest-ever study of hate crime victimisation.
As well as gaining a better understanding of nature and impact of hate crime, the Leicester Hate Crime Project will influence official responses to potential and actual victims. Throughout the two-year period, the research team will be working in close collaboration with criminal justice agencies and other support organisations that are capable of informing policy and enacting change. This will ensure that responses are tailored around the needs and expectations of hate crime victims.
The research is being conducted within Leicester, a city renowned for its diverse and multicultural population. As one of the most plural cities in the UK, Leicester reflects the demographic developments of the last few decades that are found in many towns and cities throughout the country. Therefore, Leicester is an ideal base from which to explore experiences amongst a varied range of groups who are at risk of being victimised on the basis of their perceived ‘difference’.
What motivates perpetrators to victimise people because of their perceived difference can vary. Some may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with ‘difference’; some may see the ‘other’ as a threat; and some may target people specifically because they seem vulnerable and unable to fight back. These are all factors which can form the basis of people’s prejudice and which can prompt angry, violent and harrowing expressions of hate crime.
No one wants to look into a mirror and see someone whom others hate because of something they cannot change. They want to see someone who is accepted and respected for who they are.
Dr Neil Chakraborti
- Hate crime and targeted violence
- Identity and 'difference'
- Rural racism
- Policing diversity
- Hate crime victimisation, perpetration or policy
- Violence, harassment or abuse directed towards people because of their ‘difference’, vulnerability or social disadvantage