New research has found that a third (33%) of people with a visible difference or disfigurement have experienced a hate crime, an increase from just over a quarter of people (28%) in 2019. The also research reveals that there has been an increase in people experiencing hostile behaviours because of how they look.
Half (49%) of those with a visible difference reported that they have to contend with hostile behaviours, like stares and bullying. This increase has been steadily rising since 2019 when a third of people (34%), reported these experiences.
The research also found that younger respondents are even more likely to experience hostile behaviour because of their visible difference, with two in three (66%) of those aged 18-34, reporting this happens to them.
The survey conducted by Savanta of over 1,000 people with a visible difference, such as a mark or scar, provides an accurate picture of how those with visible differences are affected by hate crimes, incidents and negative behaviours in the UK today.
Heather Blake, Changing Faces chief executive, says: “These are sobering numbers to read. We know that behind each of these statistics is a person who is directly impacted by the shocking prejudice, and in some instances criminal actions, of others. No one should be a target for abuse or discrimination because of how they look.
“First and foremost, we want anyone with a visible difference or disfigurement to know that we are here for them. This isn’t something you should just have to put up with. Let’s call it what it is, it’s hate, and it’s wrong.
“We need people to challenge abuse if they witness it, and we need authorities, like the Police, to ensure people with visible differences know that their experiences will be taken seriously, should they report them.”
The research also found that nearly a quarter (23%) of people experienced a hate crime but didn’t report it. When asked about the barriers to reporting, nearly a quarter (23%) said that they didn’t think they would be taken seriously, whilst more than one in ten (12%) say experiencing a hate crime is just part of life with a visible difference.
Adam Pearson, Changing Faces ambassador, actor and presenter, says: “Hate crimes, whoever they target, are despicable and not to be tolerated. Seeing the steady increases in those with a visible difference or disfigurement experiencing hate crimes is frightening. We can’t wait for a tragedy to happen before action is taken though.
“We think police forces across the UK need to do more to encourage people with visible differences to report what’s happening to them and reassure them that they will be taken seriously.”
These hate crimes, incidents and negative behaviours are already having an impact. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed said that they have felt self-conscious or embarrassed as a result of their visible difference. Whilst 31% often worry about how strangers may behave or react around them.
Our volunteer campaigners and ambassadors have spoken about the hate and hostile behaviours that they experience. People have shared their testimonies, which range from customers refusing to be served by them and people on public transport avoiding sitting next to them, through to verbal abuse shouted at them from passing cars, threats of violence in the street and even death threats made online.
We have written to Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, as well as Police Scotland and the Northern Ireland Policing Board, highlighting the research, asking for their support and for them to encourage their local forces to ensure people with a visible difference in their area feel confident to report any hate crimes or incidents they experience.
Adam Pearson says: “When you have a visible difference, you don’t have the option of blending in, or vanishing into the crowd – too often a visible difference can make you a target for abuse and hate. There are ways everyone can help change this though. You can report the vile comments you see online; you can be an ally and strike up a positive conversation with someone if you see or hear them being targeted; and if it’s necessary, you should call the Police in an emergency situation”.
“Diversity should be celebrated, and that should include those of us with visible differences and disfigurements. We want that positivity to overshadow and challenge those people who still think it’s okay to target someone because of their appearance.”