HateTracker Helpline

What is a hate crime?

"A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
Federal Bureau of Investigations

Hate crimes are illegal acts motivated by bias or prejudice against a person or people perceived to be part of a group, such as a particular race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The victim does not have to actually belong to the targeted group.

Hate incidents are similarly motivated incidents that do not rise to the level of criminality. However, they are still dangerous and harmful.

Hate crimes and incidents are meant to scare, terrify, induce fear or cause psychological harm.

Often, victims of hate crimes and incidents continue to feel threatened long after the attack.

Hate crimes and incidents are, simply, attacks against people for being who they are. They are harmful to communities as well as individual victims.

Some examples of hate crimes include the following, if these actions are motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived group identity:

  • Physical assault while using derogatory words
  • Vandalism or hate graffiti against a particular group in areas where it will be seen by members of the targeted group
  • Burning a cross on the lawn of a Black family.

What is the difference between a hate crime and hate speech?

Hate speech is speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a group of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Hate speech includes written as well as oral communication.

A hate crime doesn’t always involve hate speech and hate speech in and of itself is not always a hate crime. Some hate speech may be protected by freedom of speech laws.

What is a hate incident and how does it differ from a hate crime?

A hate incident is an act that is malicious or discriminatory toward another person or group based on bias or prejudice relating to their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

Hate incidents may be considered "hate crimes," or violations of civil law, such as unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, education or public accommodations.

What should I do if someone I know was the target of a hate crime or hate incident?

The first thing to do is help them with any negative emotions they may be experiencing. For example try to delicately reinforce that the incident was not their fault. Listen to them without judgment, and express your support.

Encourage the person to report the incident or seek medical attention or counseling if they need it. It can be very helpful to the person if you offer to go with them and help them along the way.

(Adapted from http://ejce.berkeley.edu/report-incident/what-hate-crime)

What if I become the target of, or witness, a hate crime or hate-motivated act?

Experiencing or witnessing a hate crime or hate incident can be difficult and distressing. Please take care of yourself. We also recommend that you report the incident(s) immediately. Please see our resources pages for education, advocacy, reporting and support resources.

Make sure you are safe.

Get to a safe location such as a public place, a police station or a friend’s home to secure yourself against further harm. To practice ongoing safety: walk with friends when going places, walk in well-lit areas at night where there are people around, and make sure your phone number isn’t listed publically. You may also consider filing for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

Get medical attention if necessary.

If you need immediate assistance, call 911. Please go to a hospital and receive medical attention as soon as possible if you have been a victim of a physical attack, including sexual assault, as it is possible that the doctor may discover injuries that are not visible.

Preserve evidence.

Collecting evidence can help you build a case against the perpetrator. This can mean taking photographs, saving written or electronic messages, recording threatening voicemails, not showering after sexual assault (showering washes away evidence), keeping soiled clothes in a plastic sealable bag, keeping a journal of the dates and times of events, etc. However, you should not put yourself at risk in order to collect evidence.

Report the incident.

Report the incident through HateReport to help raise awareness and consider filing a police report. Filing a police report can be important even if you decide to not press charges because it can help the police build a file on the accused which in turn helps prevent the assault from happening to someone else. It will also inform the police about the prevalence of hate crimes and hate incidents in the community.

Talk to someone.

Talk to a friend, family member, psychologist or someone you trust to help you process and deal with the effects of being a survivor or witness of a hate crime. Having someone to talk to who understands can be a valuable resource and aid healing.

Do not blame yourself.

You do not, and did not, deserve to be targeted. It was not your fault.

(Adapted from http://ejce.berkeley.edu/report-incident/hate-crime-target-witness).

National Advocacy Organizations

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) addresses violence committed against and within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It trains activists, equips state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and builds the organizational capacity of its movement.

(Adapted from http://ejce.berkeley.edu/report-incident/hate-crimes-nao)

Federal Legislation

The Hate Crimes Statistics Act

This federal law protects all US citizens from criminal activity motivated by prejudice, as well as prosecutes offenders. The law also works to promote prejudice reduction initiatives for schools and the community.

Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Matthew Shepard Act is a law that expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

(Adapted from http://ejce.berkeley.edu/report-incident/hate-crimes-legislation)