Hate Crimes: First Facts
The Antioch Group is pleased to have been selected by the Illinois State Police to serve Governor Ryan’s Commission On Discrimination And Hate Crimes as a resource for information and treatment.
Most Antioch Group clinicians are trained in methods of trauma treatment for both adults and children. We treat hate crime victims who are suffering from acute-and/or post-traumatic stress.
There is a relative paucity of information and empirical research on hate crimes and their effects on victims. What follows are first facts on these crimes, including their psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal effects, and what may be done to treat and support persons who experience them.
Are Hate Crimes On The Rise?
Although acts of hatred against minorities of all sorts have been part of an ugly underside to American life for some time, the incidence of these crimes may be on the rise as the 21st Century unfolds.
In the latest two year span for which comparative statistics were available (1994–1995) the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 36% increase in hate-related crimes.
In at least one representative sample, research indicated that young adults today may actually be more racially prejudiced than are their parents (Survey Research Center of the University of Maryland, 1982).
It has been estimated that for every hate crime reported to law enforcement officers, as many as nine go may unreported (Dees & Borden, 1996).
Hate Crimes: Definition and Related Facts
Hate crimes are defined as crimes directed against individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. (Hutson, Anglia, Stranton, & Moore, 1997, pp 796–797).
70% of all hate crimes are committed against people, as opposed to property (Stewart, 1994, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, 1996).
60% of all hate crimes are race-based.
Most hate crimes are committed by multiple perpetrators against individuals (McLaughlin, Brilliant, & Lang, 1995).
The largest group of hate crimes victims are Blacks.
The majority of hate crimes based on religion are committed against people of Jewish descent, or against property identified with Jewish institutions.
Hate crimes most commonly occur at night and around specific holidays such as Martin Luther King Day or Chanukah. (Clarke, 1991, Jacobs, 1992)
Based on one study (Barnes & Ephross, 1994) the most frequently reported hate crimes were physical assault, verbal harassment, and threats by phone or mail, followed by slogans or symbols of hatred on personal property, then by attacks on homes or other vandalism.
Who Commits Hate Crimes?
Most perpetrators of hate crimes are white, male, aged 16–25, and are NOT members of any organized hate group.
Organized hate groups account for 8–15% of all hate crimes (Levin & McDevitt, 1993).
Motives for Hate Crimes
Thrill—These are the most commonly occurring hate crimes. They are often spontaneously carried out, have no precipitating factors (other than a desire for thrills, exhilaration or sport), and happen to victims chosen at random (gays and lesbians are the most frequent victims of thrill-motivated hate crimes).
Reactive—Perpetrators are reacting to a perceived threat which the victim represents to their neighborhood, school, or workplace. These crimes often escalate in violence level until the victim “gets the message” (Hutson, et al, 1997).
Mission—Mission-motivated hate crimes are the most likely to be extremely violent. The perpetrator believes he/she is following special instructions (e.g., from God, the fuehrer, etc.) to rid the world of the members of a targeted group.
Effects of Hate Crimes On Victims
Victims of hate crimes involving violence are more likely to sustain severe physical and psychological injury than victims of other forms of violent crime (McLaughlin, Brilliant & Lang, 1995; Levin & McDevitt, 1993).
Hate crime victims who have property defaced or damaged or who experience verbal harassment may feel especially violated because a common response of others is “Well, it’s not serious—at least no one was hurt” (Barnes & Ephross, 1994).
In fact, even one incidence of hate-related harassment may trigger a lifetime of memories of prejudice, discrimination, and intimidation, so the victim is seldom reacting just to the one incident.
Victims of all sorts of hate crimes share the common affront that the act both singles them out, and marks their whole group, simultaneously. Such acts strike deeply at the victim’s sense of personal safety, as well as having an isolating, alienating effect, particularly that of unwarranted (and personally unacceptable) guilt derived from perceptions that the majority culture believes that the victim’s group is, in fact, inferior.
Psychic Injuries That Follow From Hate Crimes
Though research is scarce the studies that have been completed suggest that hate crime victims respond initially in much the same way as do victims of other types of violence, such as rape.
Immediate (2–4 week) responses may include:
- Emotional numbing
- Expressions of indifference toward the crime or, conversely, expressions of anger and desires for revenge
- Increased feelings of vulnerability and related fear
- Sadness and depression related to the incident
- Difficulty sleeping and related fatigue
- Physical signs of stress such as heart palpitations, headaches
- Increased irritability, and perhaps, rage
- Intensified startle responses
- Increased suspicion of others
Longer-term psychological effects have not been adequately researched. One study’s results (Barnes & Ephross, 1994) indicates that resolution may involve the regaining of self-esteem by attributing responsibility for the crime to the prejudice of the perpetrators. (This appears to be in contrast to victims of other types of personal crime who may continue to blame themselves for the crime’s occurrence).
Longer-term behavioral effects of hate crime that have been identified to date include:
- Increasing home security and taking other safety precautions for oneself and one’s family
- Avoidance of community facilities that were previously a part of the victim’s life, such as church, clubs, or political organizations
- Practicing with weapons or purchase of a weapon (some with ideas of retaliation rather than protection only)
Treatment of Hate Crime Victims
Again there is a paucity of research on effective treatments, other than emergency room care.
It is possible that, unless the hate crime is of a highly violent nature, outpatient providers may not see hate crime victims because many of these people keep silent about their victimization. This can be because they are unsure about whether their neighbors and fellow community members will support them (versus the perpetrators), and whether they will understand the full impact the crime has had upon them.
Speculatively, then, outpatient psychological care providers and counselors may be most likely to treat the effects of hate crime under the following conditions:
- The crime comes to light during history-taking for treatment of other ailments, such as depression. (It is important that providers incorporate sensitive questioning about the possible experience of hate crimes in standard history-taking protocols. It is unknown how many providers, locally or nationwide, do so.)
- Upon referral following a more violent hate crime such as battery.
In the latter case (referral), it seems prudent to consider a protocol similar to one used with Acute-or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders:
- History, including any previous experiences with hate crimes
- Description of the incident
- Mental/emotional status, (currently and at the time of the incident)
- Cognitive, behavioral and physical manifestations of feelings about the event (e.g., nightmares, depression)
- Available support
- Utilization of support persons (versus retreat and avoidance)
- View of the future (including any fantasies, plans, or goals related to the incident)
- Explanation (to self) or beliefs about the overall meaning of the incident in their life
It may be important for the victim to be accompanied to the first session by a support person (e.g., pastor) and/or an interpreter who is familiar with the victim’s racial, ethnic, or cultural issues, and who will keep the person’s confidentiality.
Active treatment in the office may best consist of a focus on any post-traumatic aspects of the incident, using rapid-acting trauma treatments such as stress debriefing and/or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). (For EMDR, trained practitioners should consider a combination of both reprocessing of the trauma and resource-building.)
Longer-term support and care may best be accomplished by referring the person to an appropriate support organization such as B’nai, B’rith National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Asian Society, the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, etc.
NOTE: All of the above treatment suggestions are speculative. Research is needed into what treatment protocols may in fact be most useful. The Antioch Group solicits information from anyone knowledgeable about hate crime treatment that would enable us to periodically update this site.
Steven A. Hamon, Ph.D., President
Barnes, A., Ephross P.H. (1994). The impact of hate violence on victims: Emotional and behavioral responses to attacks. Social Work, 39, 247–251.
Hutson, H.R., Anglin, D., Stratton, G. & Moore, J. (1997). Hate crime violence and its emergency department management. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 29, 786– 791.
Weiss, J.C. & Ephross, P.H. (1986). Group work approaches to ‘hate violence’ incidents. Social Work, 31, 132–136.
Secondary and Statistical Sources
Clarke, F. (1991). Hate violence in the United States. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 60, 14–17.
Dees, M. & Bowden, F. (1995). Taking hate groups to court. Trial, 31, 20–29.
Jacobs, J.B. (1992). Rethinking the war against hate crimes: A New York perspective. Criminal Justice Ethics, 11, 55–61.
Levin, J. McDevitt, J. (1993). Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed. New York, Plenum.
McLaughlin, K., Brilliant, K., Lang, C. (1995). National Bias Crimes Training For Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals: A Guide For Training Instructors. Newton, M.A. Education Development Center, Massachusetts Criminal Training Council.
Stewart, B. (1994). Hate crimes: Understanding and addressing the problem. The Police Chief, 61, 14–25.
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1992). Training Guide For Hate Crime Data Collection. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 8–11.
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division (1995). Hate Crime Statistics: 1994 Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.