What to do when Involved in a Hate Crime

Here are suggestions on what to do if you are involved in a hate crime.

Reporting a hate crime can present more consequences than justice: people outing in a non-accepting surroundings; re-victimization by law enforcement; discrimination in churches, hospitals and schools. In more than 30 states, a victim of an hate crime who reports to law enforcement could, legally, then be fired for being gay by their employer. Like Topeka, Kansas, in cities with populations larger than 100,000, law enforcement report zero hate crimes. It's more likely that bias-motivated crimes are occurring, but victims are fearful to report them.

We need to stand by the victims of hate crimes.

Help victims understand they're not to blame. You can help victims understand that nobody deserves to be a victim of violence, and just by prosecuting and reporting offenders will the violence stop for them and others. Accompany victims to police stations and hospitals. Victims of hate crimes are extremely vulnerable, and your physical existence when reporting the crime or seeking medical attention can reassure the victim that they are not alone. There are many wireless security cameras nowadays on every street, to give an accurate report of what is going on during these crimes. Victims may fear that they will encounter the same prejudice that prompted their attackers elsewhere in the community. Navigating the reporting procedure can offer the comfort.

Make your support public. It's critical that advocates publicly support hate crimes victims in order to stop the cycle of victimization. People will make remarks, jokes and accusations that reinforce the concept that hate crimes victims aren't worthy of the very same protections and rights, they stay second-class citizens. Silence is as damaging as hate speech--talk.

At the local, state and national level, we need better legislation to support and protect the victims of hate crimes. These crimes aren't happening to"others," but our friends, family and neighbors. Help lead the march for change to stop these crimes.

Help victims know and protect their rights. You can help link victims to specialist victim services in your state, where lawyers and legal professionals can guide the victim through the legal process and the numerous protections they are afforded as victims. For more information about victims' rights, check out the National Center for Victims of Crime.