"I’ll recover from the physical pain but what about the emotional scars?"

Posted by ap507 at May 13, 2015 09:35 AM |
Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy and Professor Neil Chakraborti discuss the harms of hate and the importance of Mental Health Awareness Month

 

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"It was a very dark point in my life … It made me feel small, insignificant, like nothing mattered. I didn’t matter, I was just a gay person, get used to it."

 

This comment from a young gay male is illustrative of the sense of despair shared by many individuals who have been subjected to violence simply because of their identity or perceived ‘difference’. Mental Health Awareness Month is hugely important, not least because it enables us to reflect on the often ‘hidden’ impacts that hate crimes have on victims’ emotional well-being and mental health.

All too often the more ‘everyday’ forms of hate crime victimisation are trivialised as ‘just a bit of banter’ gone too far or a case of victims being ‘over-sensitive’. Over the last three years we have heard from people who have been tipped out of wheelchairs, or who have put up with faeces and fireworks being shoved through their letterboxes. We have heard from people who have seen their car windows repeatedly smashed in; their houses spray-painted with graffiti; their children or parents hounded simply for looking ‘different’. We have heard from people who have been violently and sexually assaulted; who have been exploited and humiliated; who have been tormented countless times in person and via social media. This is not banter or over-sensitivity: these are horrific, and in many instances routine features of everyday life for many thousands of people.

As researchers we have listened to hundreds of these harrowing accounts of hate crime victimisation. This statement is not intended to evoke sympathy for us but instead to highlight that we have been affected just by listening to these experiences. Imagine what life is like for those living these experiences. It is hard to comprehend the sadness, the fear, the anger and the anxiety that many victims normalise every day. It is hard to comprehend needing to change the way that you look; having to avoid public transport; being too scared to leave your house; or feeling that there is no other alternative but to take your own life.

It makes you feel demoralised. It makes you feel hated. It makes you feel isolated, unwanted.

Muslim male

I don’t feel my children are safe if I leave home and when I’m outside all I think about is hoping that my house has not been attacked again.

Male asylum seeker from Iraq

The first couple of times you lose somebody from the community [to suicide] you get upset, but then eventually you come to the point where I can’t remember half their names now.

Transgender female

Many victims suffer in silence. Our recent studies, including research funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Economic and Social Research Council, found that less than a quarter of victims share their experiences with the police and even fewer share their ordeals with other organisations and individuals in a position of trust. This is not surprising as we have heard from many victims who have little confidence in the capacity of authorities to act empathetically, efficiently or effectively.

At the Leicester Centre for Hate Studies we use our research findings to deliver evidence-based training to practitioners from different fields, including criminal justice, education and health and social care. It is only through greater awareness of hate crime – and through greater recognition of the ways in which these offences affect victims’ mental health – that we can begin to provide the support that thousands of people are so in need of.

To find out more about the Leicester Centre for Hate Studies, our research and our training workshops please visit our website: www.le.ac.uk/centreforhatestudies

Watch the award-winning 'The Harms of Hate' video below:

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