We are launching the first ever hate crime campaign aimed at informing people with disfigurements about their rights if they are the victims of abuse. For too long people who have a visible difference and ‘look different’ have been subject to abuse and harassment in their daily lives.
On average there are 67,000 disability related hate crimes, including disfigurement, every year. Our survey of over 800 people with a disfigurement found that a third of people said they have been a victim of a hate crime because of how they look, however only 30% of them reported it to the police. Many people don’t even realise they can report abuse as a hate crime.
Changing Faces Head of Advocacy, Henrietta Spalding, says: “Being different in a society where there is such pressure to look a certain way is tough. We want to see hate crimes that target appearance recognised and reported. No one deserves to suffer abuse because of the way they look, and it’s time to break the cycle of hate in our society.
“We know from our research and through interviewing victims of hate crimes that there are many barriers to reporting. We want to equip people with the confidence and the methods to report abuse.”
Our survey of those who had experienced a hate crime relating to their disfigurement found that only 35% of people would be confident in reporting a hate crime if it happened to them or someone else; 18% of people believed that the police would deal with a hate crime effectively if they reported it; and only 10% believed that the wider justice system would deal with a hate crime sensitively if they reported it.
When asked how likely they would be to report certain types of crimes, 80% were likely to report physical harassment or violence, whereas only 28% were likely to report verbal abuse.
The campaign, funded by the Home Office, will tell the stories of people who have experienced abuse because of their appearance and advise people on how to get help.
Rory McGuire is 24 years old and has a large facial birthmark. He says that his appearance has meant he has suffered harassment throughout his life: “I was told that I was a freak. I was compared to an alien. I don’t think people realise how much that can get to someone, especially a young boy. The mental side of the abuse that I had to face really halted my development from teenager into a young man.
“If there are more people reporting hate crimes, they might begin to take them more seriously. And if they begin to take them more seriously, then the people that are actually carrying out these crimes will think twice about it.”
We are calling for a greater awareness of what a hate crime is and how to report it, alongside more training for the police so that they are aware of how to deal with hate crimes sensitively and effectively.