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Initiative to stamp out hate

13 May 2019

Hate crime is best explained as when someone is singled out because of a perceived difference, be that physical or mental disability, their gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation. The types of crimes committed against a person could be anything from verbal or online abuse to physical assaults or damage to their property.

The problem is, hate isn’t always obvious and doesn’t always translate as a ‘crime’. Tiny behaviours, such as blocking the path of a guide dog, not allowing a disabled person to sit in an allocated seat on a bus, or deliberately excluding a gay person from a sports team because of their sexual orientation, are all forms of hate, but these incidents may not be classed as ‘crimes’. However, spotting and challenging this behaviour can stop things escalating.

One group of people vulnerable to hate, but least likely or able to report it, are those with disabilities. Being targeted, excluded or abused because of a physical difference is a daily occurrence for some people with physical and learning disabilities. There are many reasons why people from this group might not come forward, but heartbreakingly the most common is that they are so used to abuse they don’t know any different and are unable to recognise it. Another reason is that some, particularly those with learning disabilities, may find it more difficult to explain what they have experienced.

With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with a number of Cambridgeshire County Council disability day services in Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives to ensure we’re able to reach those most in need. These services include those running at Huntingdon Community Centre, in Ambury Road; Shortsands, in Cambridge Street, St Neots and C.A.T.S, in Bull Lane, St Ives.

Local people with learning and physical disabilities regularly attend these centres, so we have been working with staff at these locations and at local respite homes to fully brief them on how to identify and report hate – whether just an incident or a crime.

Hate crime coordinator Tiff Lane said: “I am thrilled to be able to announce this initiative. Hate crime is a hugely important area for us and we take it incredibly seriously.

“Disability seems to be that last taboo and one of the areas where abuse and hate is still hugely underreported. We hope by educating those who are closest to people with disabilities, we’ll have more eyes on the ground and more chance of spotting – and therefore stamping out – any problems.

“It’s truly shocking and saddening to think there are people out there living through hate crime abuse, who don’t feel able to come forward. I hope with more initiatives like these, both in Cambridgeshire and across the country, we can really start to tackle the problem. Nobody should have to endure hate crime.”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Chairwoman of the Adults Committee, Councillor Anna Bailey, said: “We are proud to support this community initiative. We cannot even begin to imagine what people who experience hate crime go through - the incidents can be very distressing.

“It’s important we stick together as communities and help tackle these crimes by providing support to victims and the local police.

“We hope our centres can provide a welcoming, safe space for people with disabilities to come forward and report these unacceptable crimes.”

If you have been a victim of a hate crime or know someone who has, you can find out more here

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