This week, the Home Office launched their Statistical Bulletin for Hate Crime in England and Wales 2014/2015.
Some of the key statistics found in the report state that in 2014/15 there were 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police, an increase of 18 per cent (44,471 hate crimes recorded in 2013/14).
- 42,930 (82%) of those recorded were race hate crimes
- 5,597 (11%) were sexual orientation hate crimes
- 3,254 (6%) were religion hate crimes
- 2,508 (5%) were disability hate crimes
- 605 (1%) were transgender hate crimes.
It is possible for one hate crime offence to have more than one motivating factor which is why the above numbers sum to more than 52,528 and 100 per cent.
This week is national Hate Crime Awareness Week, which encourages awareness raising and acts of shared remembrance for victims of hate, targeted because of who they are, be it because of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, subculture, disability, faith, socioeconomic background or otherwise.
In my role as Campaigns Officer at Stonewall, I have been thinking of ways we can promote the good work being done in different parts of the UK, by police and prosecutors, by campaigners and organisations, and by individuals who are moved to try and make a difference in their area to tackle hate crime by challenging the intolerance and fear behind it.
Inevitably perhaps, the idea of Hate Crime Awareness Week has made me reflect on my own awareness and how this has changed and deepened over time.
When I first moved to London in October 2009, I didn’t really know what hate crime was, or at least didn’t conceptualise it clearly as a crime like theft or drink driving for instance.
I guess this began to change soon after moving when I attended a candlelit vigil for victims of hate crime with one of my best friends in Trafalgar Square. It was the end of October and just a month after Ian Baynham had died of brain injuries after being a victim of a homophobic attack, when kicked to death by a young man and woman after a night out. This horrific incident brought 10,000 people together from across London. They wanted to recognise what had happened, find ways to make sure this never happened again and recognise victims from across the world.
I remember my attendance as accidental; I went not really knowing what to expect and feeling self-conscious as we joined those holding candles. The extremity of what happened to Ian and my newness to London as a city left me feeling, perhaps naively at the time, that this kind of thing didn’t happen to me or my friends, or people that I knew.
This only really changed some years later when separate female friends who both identify as LGBT and are perhaps more visibly queer, told me individually about how they had been abused and attacked whilst on different bus journeys . I was shocked by the detail and trajectories of both stories and forced to accept that this doesn’t just happen to strangers.
Both had been targeted on public transport. They had been physically and verbally abused. There were many bystanders in both cases who did nothing. Someone did step in to challenge what was happening on the night bus but many others sat in silence. One of my friends reported what had happened but was extremely frustrated with the police investigation, and the bus driver’s immediate response of blaming her. But ultimately there were no repercussions for those who attacked them.
When incidents like this happens it can sometimes be easy to see it as the awful randomness of the universe, or a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just accept it as something that happens.
There is power in speaking out even if you don’t want to report what has happened to the police. Telling someone, a trusted friend or family member or speaking to a specialist organisation like Galop in London can create ripples of change. It is also important to recognise how others outside of our immediate networks and communities are affected by hate. We need to be ready to take out our headphones and stand-up for those strangers sharing our bus, neighbourhood and streets.