What Should I do if I witness a Hate Crime?

What Should I do if I witness a Hate Crime?

Cassidy Chansirik
 | 
Hate crimes have grown rampantly in the past year. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there were 7,314 hate crime incidents in 2019. 57% of those were motivated by racial, ethnic, or ancestry biases.  

Most recently, the country has witnessed a spike of hate crimes against Asian Americans. In an analysis conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent rose by 150%

Now more than ever, it’s important to know what a hate crime is and what you should do if you ever witness one. 

What is a hate crime?
Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice defines a hate crime as being motivated by any of the following factors: 
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Disability 

Hate crimes can sometimes be confused with hate incidents. The U.S. Department of Justice defines a hate incident as “an act of prejudice that does not involve violence, threats, or property damage.” Name-calling, for example, is a hate incident. 

It’s important to know that hate incidents do not violate criminal or civil law. This is because they are protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause. However, if numerous targeted hate incidents continue to occur, they can become unlawful harassment or stalking under certain state laws.

What do I do if I witness a hate crime?
Witnessing a hate crime can be jarring. In the moment, you may be unsure of what to do or how to best protect the victim. To help you as a witness, the Stop AAPI Hate team and the Anti-Defamation League have listed out some steps that you can take:
  • Prioritize your safety. Your safety as a witness is of the utmost importance. 
  • Introduce yourself to the person being targeted. Ask them how you can support them, such as staying close by to monitor the situation. 
  • Ignore the perpetrator and use verbal and nonverbal communication to deescalate the situation as best as you can. 
  • Actively listen to what is being said by the perpetrator. Was the perpetrator using racist, ethnic, or bias-motivated slurs? 
  • With the consent of the victim, contact law enforcement. If the victim does not want to involve law enforcement, there are other avenues that you can take to document the crime and assist the victim. Communities Against Hate documents hate crimes and connects victims to mental health resources and sometimes legal counsel. You can report a crime here or call 1-844-9-NO-HATE.

In addition to helping the victim, don’t forget to check in on yourself. Witnessing a hate crime can be traumatic. To process what you witnessed, seek out safe sources of support and community and explore different coping skills, like taking a walk or journaling. Remember that you are not alone. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
Cassidy Chansirik

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