EMPAC is pleased to report that the University of Leicester’s Wellbeing Matters campaign and the Centre for Hate Studies came together to discuss hate crime and mental health on the 1st May.
Hate driven behaviour is typically expressed through acts of hostility and violence where victims are targeted specifically because of their identity characteristics or perceived ‘difference’.
Although the physical injuries associated with hate crime are relatively well documented, the emotional harms are often overlooked, under-estimated or ignored altogether.
This event brought together a panel of experts to discuss those harms and their damaging impacts upon mental health, and to explore ways in which we can collectively support victims’ needs more effectively.
Led by Professor Neil Chakroborti and colleagues from the Centre for Hate Studies the event offered authentic insights into the challenges associated with hate crime and mental health from a range of perspectives, and to invite members of the audience to share their own ideas for change.
Here, post event, we share some views about the event, and more, from researcher David Wilkin. It’s a both personal and motivation submission (thank you, David) and EMPAC would encourage you to give it a read!
Hate Crime and Mental Health: Repairing the harms of hate
My background has involved much personal reinvention. Following a long career in public transport and having been a victim of hate attacks in my younger days it was time to reinvent myself when leaving the transport sector. So, I studied criminology and this road was latterly to take me to be accepted to undertake a PhD candidacy at the University of Leicester. One of the strengths of that establishment lies in its Centre for Hate Studies which has global notoriety for its work. This work is influential and it has been cited in UK government reports. Its academics have global authority in the field and are passionate to drive change. The opportunity to study criminology at this level is one I could not have dreamt of being diagnosed as autistic when I was seven and having abandoned school due to hate attacks. I never imagined that I could aspire to being a doctor of criminology – an aspiration which the University is guiding me to achieve.
I have long had a personal dream to make social change for the better and hopefully prevent others being the victims of callous attacks based on their identities. My personal field of research is disability hate crime (DHC) and to have this hostility more widely and publically recognised is my objective. My research has found people who use public transport in the UK and who are also unfortunate in being disabled are being targeted on a regular basis by abusive, intolerant and sometimes violent offenders. Some of these victims have been spat at, jostled or told that their disabled babies should have been gassed at birth. Victims have been tossed from buses and had their wheelchairs thrown after them. As if it were not enough to be disabled and to require high levels of personal energy and commitment just to live an ordinary life, victims also have to endure public humiliation, intimidation and harm. I want to make a positive change for all passengers using public transport – whether they are victims, other members of the public or members of the professional services who have to witness or deal with these cases. Raising the public profile of a group which is already sporadically vilified in the press for being ‘scroungers’ or being ‘lazy’ is a hard slog. Therefore, any opportunity which brings hate crime to the public forefront needs to be utilised. An event aimed at raising awareness of all aspects hate crime was held this week.
I was delighted to be invited by the University of Leicester’s Centre for Hate Studies to be a guest at the ‘Hate Crime and Mental Health: Repairing the harms of hate’ forum at the city’s Phoenix Theatre. It was a sell-out. Guests from a range of ages spoke with sincerity and passion regarding their experiences of being hate crime victims. What was unusual for this discussion was the degree of public involvement. Members of the public courageously voiced their experiences of being victims, citing a range of hate crimes in powerful and moving testimony. The life-changing nature of hate crime is not something that is readily understood in general terms, but if society took more opportunities to listen to the victims and consequences of such actions then understanding, education and positive change can surely only result.
Aside from academic research which is expensive and time-consuming, public events such as this one are one of the few avenues open for members of the public to reveal their everyday experiences of hate. This event further focused on the repercussive effects on personal mental health. Hate crimes have a long-term and corrosive impact which can result in self-harm, chronic mental illness or even suicide. Aside from a talking forum, the public were invited to give their thoughts, ideas and solutions toward facing, treating and beating hate crime. Much information was collected and this will be documented for future reference. This was an exemplary exercise in academia reaching out to the public and to professional agencies in a bid not only to understand a problem, but also to help the public understand it.
This event finished at around 9 PM – but it could easily have lasted longer. The opportunity for anyone to vent their feelings concerning hate and its consequences are rare – and the effect was powerful. Some attendees were telling me about experiences which they would not ordinarily have shared with anyone, including close friends or family. Some of these experiences were shocking to say the least. Victims told me that the reason that they were relating these to me was because I had firstly shared my experience with them. The value of this event was the public realisation that they, as victims, were not alone. That work was being done to explore and resolve these crimes. Those of us fortunate to be on the panel of this forum felt privileged to be able to share and listen to these personal accounts of hostility.
My colleagues and I welcome more events like this one in the future. The more that we as a society understand its problems and potential solutions the better equipped that we are to deal with personal tragedies. The more knowledge that we hold then we can adapt more techniques to alleviate victimisation. If the sharing of experience brings enlightenment then the way forward is to further encourage the police, professional services, local authorities and health agencies to listen to the voices of those who don’t have other channels through which they can voice their fears. If a change for the better can be made, then let’s make it together.
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